Volunteer Blogs

Volunteer Blog: Nancy Fitzgerald (2014)


Nancy’s Uganda Blog
Jan 27 to Feb 7, 2014


Wed, Jan 29, 2014:  Woohoo!  I am in the computer & business center in Namirembe with open windows and it is warming quickly on the equator at 10 am.  Renee and I hooked up in Detroit and made 2 plane trips of 7 hours each first to Amsterdam where there is a cool mini art museum, sculptures of over sized tulips and delft cups and saucers in the airport. Then we flew to Kigali, Rwanda with less than an hour hop on the same plane to Entebbe, the Kampala airport in Uganda.  We were in our guest house rooms by a little after midnight time which is 8 hours ahead of EST. 


We got through security uneventfully, got 1,000,000=/, Ugandan shillings, at Barclay bank ATM and were greeted at the airport by Ssebunya, the all around on-site liaison for the African Rural Schools and Peter, the man who is the driver for Renee and me for the week.  How about that? 


My iPhone clock did not reset the time immediately so when I went to sleep I set the alarm for 5:30 am in case that would really be 7:30 am when I needed to be up for breakfast.  I was awake at 5 am instead and ready way ahead of time in the dark with the rooster crowing. My phone HAD reset to the correct time. By tonight I figure I will be ready for sleeping at a reasonable hour and essentially into the new time.


We had breakfast outdoors at a table on a grassy terrace at the guest house, eating an omelet, 2 pieces of toast, fresh pineapple and watermelon and hot milk or hot water with choice of Nescafe instant or tea bags, included with our guest house fee.


The weather is not unlike Florida, humid and warm. The fragrance in the breezy air is of burning with a hint of roasting orange rind that you might know from Florida.  The red mud soil is visible this morning in the light and blows with the breeze.  


Next we go to the school and will have a meeting, then dinner with Uncle David, school administrator, Abbey, the young man who is finishing training to administer the micro lending office for the school, Ssebunya and likely Peter.  I have heard of these folks from Renee and am glad to meet them in person.


Lisa, I am seeing the 40 Day Transformation lessons in my email even from here--worldwide, one mind!


Renee is still practicing patience in getting into her email account.  I am going to send this so you know I am in place for my adventure and doing fine.


Sending love, Nancy


Fri, Jan 31, 2014:  Yesterday my computer time was spent practicing patience.  I could read select emails, but then everything froze.  Renee and I did find a work-around so she could send to her mailing list, but my send for yesterday never happened.  I printed it and took it with me instead. I have retyped it here.


It is Friday and our goal is the once-a-week craft market.  This is the only Friday we will be here in Uganda so this is it.  There Renee has Ssebunya purchase the crafts she will take back to the States to sell and help support capital projects for the school. Ssebunya gets the price for locals instead of the mazunga (white person) price.  Renee and I look, and then let Ssebunya know what we like.  He came back multiple times to consult.  She has a cool collection of things right from the crafts people sitting on their blankets hoping we will buy from them. The other fun purchase was two good soccer balls for the boys at the school (which they got after the teachers took a turn) and two net balls for the girls.  The balls take a beating on the unpaved yard with sharp rocks poking out where often a wad of plastic bags held together with rubber bands serves as a soccer ball.  Of all the contributions the balls brought the biggest smiles.


What amazes me is the ride into Kampala.  The temp is in the high 70’s and humid, the car windows are open.  You can smell the smoky air which is also bluer and foggier today.  We are riding on the left side of the road and Peter, our super calm and competent driver, is on the right side of the car.  The motorcycle taxis, boda bodas, are loaded with at least two people and often a huge stack of luggage like 50 lb bags of rice, a cardboard box, three or four stalks of really green bananas, even a stack of 20 white plastic chairs loaded sideways and lashed on taking a car’s width of space. As we drive in the care we may be passed on both sides simultaneously by bodas, then the cars smoothly bow in and out of the traffic all judging within inches how close they can cut it.  Pedestrians dart across and they are also smoothly accommodated.  Sometimes there is a huge long line of traffic and Peter cuts to the left or right down a red mud alley or around a triangle barrier in the road.  He’s quiet and calm the whole time and mostly so is everyone else.  Only one time did a car blast out in front of us that clearly was not following the same rules.  That caused some deep breaths and conversation among us.


Last night was the first sleeping night I noticed the heat.  I have a great oscillating fan, which also helps discourage any mosquitoes, and I am sleeping under a mosquito net.  Relatively speaking and at only about $25 per night, we have luxury suites.  There is a double bed, maybe a bit under sized, and a private bath with recognizable & functioning flushing toilet, hand held shower, a table and a chair.  After the second day I figured when to drink water so I would not have to take the whole carful of us off track to stop at a pay toilet for me.


Wed when I first saw the school, the first thing we did was tour almost half a mile of water trenches, maybe 2 and a half feet deep by 2 feet wide that have been installed to reroute the torrent of rain that comes from uncontrolled development uphill. The water during rainy season was eroding the wall of a new class room building and surging through the latrine for the girls last year.  Ssebunya oversaw with great care and high standards the construction of this water control system in only 3 months of morning to night effort. A visiting Rotarian estimated that it would take at least 3 years of construction! He was even measuring the size of the ½” stone that was required and picked a different quarry when one did not measure up.  He is exacting and conscientious, as well as being a great sport as buyer at the craft market.


We briefly visited four or five classrooms at the school from first grade through 7th, P-7.  The kids were happily packed into the modest sized rooms, and were in uniforms of yellow tops and brown bottoms.  The school now has between 400 and 500 students about half of whom are residents. Not everyone has yet arrived for the new school year.  Renee would greet them with “Good morning children” and in every class they all stood up a said together, “You are so welcome!” When we arrive in the car and several people come to the car to greet us, they begin with “You are welcome.”


The black boards were covered with lessons, mostly in English which is the official Ugandan language, but not the local native tongue.  Students copy the lessons from the board and teachers may just leave and take a break while they do it.  There are virtually no discipline problems.  Students are arriving al this week for the new term, some for the first time.  There was a little boy alone, maybe 5 years old and two feet tall with his uniform on and his back pack, walking out the drive way when he was noticed.  I guess he remembered that as the way his parents went and he was not read to stay for school.  One of the men went and scooped him up in his arms and brought him back. 


Yesterday we met the school nurse Mary who comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and as needed.  Reeve brought some supplies including iodine wipes, bandages and cotton.  The building that was prepared a few years back to be the clinic and computer room has yielded to the need for more classrooms or dorm rooms.  Plus the erratic and expensive electricity made computers a fun novelty, but out of synch with more fundamental needs.


There is a thatched-roof open-sided kitchen behind the boy’s dorm where two huge pots, maybe 20 gallons each, sit over separate open fires.  In one the posho or cooked corn, a bit like grits, is cooked for both lunch and dinner; the other pot is full of beans that look like kidney beans.  Each child brings a plastic container, some looking like plastic sand pails for the beach, and gets a scoop of posho, a scoop of beans and some bean juice.


I am having a great time being part of this world and enjoying the gracious people, different practices and sights.  More still to come.


Mon, Feb 3:  Oooh, I am having adventures in Uganda!  I have missed lots of days by email because our business center where we can access internet has been unreliable.  Today we are in the living room of Ssebunya Kizza, the Liaison Officer in Uganda who supervises projects for ARST.  His computer which I am on now is the one that Renee left a few trips back.  When plugged into the transformer to 220 volts it works fine here.  Its battery has died and Renee's attempt to bring a replacement was a mismatch.

Yesterday was a big day because I finished up a one page summary of information gathered by talking to Uncle David, the school headmaster, and his nephew Brian.  We had observers and sometimes help in the conversation from Rev Renee Waun, my friend, and Waswa and Twaha, teachers plus Uncle David the school director and head master.  They were trying to explain how it all works for them.  We were interested in how much electricity the school used because some people in the US were looking into solar panels.  We did manage to get the info on cost and usage and find out that they have done without electricity since Dec.  When the local inspector comes and points out needed changes, they have to pay for them or the school gets shut down.  We heard later from a local resident that solar power is not so practical because of the coating of blowing red dust that blocks solar absorption and because of a theft.


We also were asking about water use and cost because there is a proposal from Rotary Clubs to get big tanks and roof gutters to catch and store water runoff during rainy season. It turns out they could catch enough water during the 3 month rainy season to supply the school with 4 or 5 months of their water and that the water cost per month is twice that of electricity.  Plus the parents of students put a priority on water over electricity, so for now the water project moves to the front. My engineering self got a bit of a work out that I enjoyed.


In the afternoon there was the first meeting of the Micro-business network which will meet at the school.  Women will come from the village.  It is funded by the International Unitarian Universalist Women’s Foundation. Another local man, Abbey has taken training for the last year on how to run a micro-business project.  Renee is their connection, and Ssebunya supervises Abbey.  They are the people who know the local people and are the "feet on the grounFor the 3 pm meeting time, 3 women had arrived, then a few more, then more.  By 3:45 with about 25 women, it was decided to start by 4 pm.  There are often comments or jokes about whether we will be on US time or African time.


Renee made a last minute decision to get two cases of cold soda pop since it was hot and people were arriving mostly on foot.  Before the meeting finished a little before 6 pm, there were almost 60 women!!! Renee introduced the program then Ssebunya would translate.  Of course, his talk time was twice as long as Renee's and the women would laugh, but we trust him and he later explained the examples he added. They worked through a two page questionnaire as everyone answered.  Someday I think I will be able to say that I was present when this successful, helpful and fun business training and micro-loan organization got started.


There is lots more and I am writing in my journal by hand at night.  But Renee and Ssebunya are talking other business in the living room and Renee still has a turn on the computer to send her report.  We will then go by the school for a bit.  After that, Ssebunya will take us to meet his father about an hour from here. 

I am loving the generosity and openness of the people and the varied ways they build and do business. 


Sending love, Nancy


Wed., Feb 5:  Hi Everyone,  I have been writing in my journal instead of here by email.  We have had computer and internet challenges and the business for the school takes precedent.  Yesterday we made a day trip to the national wildlife park and preserve at Lake Mburo where I got some amazing photos of zebras, wart hogs, goats, gorillas and hippos, plus a colorful malachite bird.  Today we were present when they handed out over 200 pairs of shorts for boys made in a UU church.  There was great excitement and tossing of uniform shorts in the air like a graduation party.  One pair of uniform shorts landed on the roof of a school building!  I wonder how that young man will switch back to regular school attire.


Tonight we are scheduled for a nice restaurant dinner with the core workers here--Ssebunya, Peter, Abbey, Renee and me.  Tomorrow we will make one last stop at the school.  We will likely have time to stop at the zoo on the way to the airport since our flight does not leave until 11pm time here.  My travel time back to Tampa after leaving Entebbe will be 26 hours.  I am glad to be able to doze on a plane.  


What a great adventure this is and it will be assimilated and relived for a long time!


Sending love, Nancy


Volunteer Blog: Renee Waun (2014)


Jan 31, 2014  

Hello Everyone,

All is well here in Uganda.  My friend Nancy Fitzgerald and I arrived to find Ssebunya and Peter smiling and waving from outside the airport greeting area.  They were so pleased to see us (and we them after such a long a tiring journey), giving us big hugs, kisses and Ugandan handshakes.  What could be better than that?

There was an upgrade at the airport.  Now they have a modern jet way to walk from the plane into the airport.  That was nice, as opposed to the old way of walking down the big stairs from plane and across the tarmac in the humid weather.  It was about 70 degrees on arrival, but humid.  You are aware of the smells that hang in the air even at the airport:  cooking fires, trash fires, smog, dust and heat melting away from the day.  It was almost midnight when we reached the guest house, but there were several helpers to get our luggage sorted out.

Peter had borrowed someone's van to collect us and all our big suitcases.  His car would not have been big enough.  He seemed quite pleased (as we were) that he thought of that.  He wanted us to be as comfortable as possible.

It is a very dark ride coming toward Kampala from Entebbe at night.  Not much electric light, but a lot of kerosene lamps and candles in the countryside.  Getting closer to the city there were more lights and a much busier atmosphere, even at 11pm. 

The manager of the guest house that I knew from previous years (Joan) no longer works there.  But at least two of the cleaners (men) knew me from before and were very glad to see me.

Ssebunya had reserved the two nicest rooms for us....per our instructions, so it was good to know that we are well cared for.  I wish they had thought to put a pillow on my bed, so it's good that I brought one from home.  The mosquito net doesn't tuck up as before, so there were plenty of bugs flying around, but once I oiled up with Deet and re-arranged the net, I was ok.  I also have electricity in the room.  YAY.  So I got to have a fan on at night.

This morning Nancy and I sat on the lawn for breakfast.  I brought a jar of Nutella to enhance the stiff white tasteless bread that they make toast out of.  That was nice.  
We are at the Namirimbe Business center this morning, but of the three computers I tried to log into my mail account, this is the only one that succeeded, so a lot of precious time was wasted just getting to this. 

Ssebunya is waiting to be picked up.  Uncle David was told that we would be visiting the school this morning, and Brian Ddibya has a surprise planned (music, I think).  But Ssebunya just called my cell to say that David had a sick relative to care for in the night, so he's not yet at the school.  I hope he is ok.

So now I'm off to see the improvements at the school since last year.  There's always a lot to document.  Each year I pace around looking at what might need to be done, take photos and consult on a plan.  Then it's up to Ssebunya to allocate the funds and supervise the work. Apparently they were working fast and furiously to get a few last minute things completed so the place would look really good this time.

Can't wait to see it.

This afternoon Abbey Ssejjuuko, the Micro-Finance Coordinator that I hired last year to work with us and the ICUUW (International Convocation of UU Women) will be there.  He will accompany us back to the guest house to have a dinner meeting and catch up on all that he has done and will be doing in the coming year and the project unfolds.  It's very exciting.

More tomorrow.

Love From Uganda,

Hello Everyone,

Our reception at the school was gratifying.  There are certain teachers: Eva, Ruth, Rebecca, Sam, and Waswa who were waiting with big smiles, hugs and handshakes. Some of these folks have been there from the time I first visited the school, and it is fun to see that they are still so dedicated to their work there.

Uncle David had been called away to a family medical emergency.  We don't know what it was, but he is out for the whole day at least. Brian Ddibya, the young man I helped through trade school has taken the whole week off from his job as an electrician to be available at the school for us.  It was also good because he could help fill in for his Uncle David.  I delivered the flute that one of my church women had given me to bring along.  Brian is the one who teaches the children how to play instruments, and even though he doesn't know how to play the flute, he was very grateful to have such a lovely instrument.  He said there is a flute player in a local military band who might teach someone to play this one.

So I got to see all the improvements at the school since last year. The tour started at the top of the campus hill, with Ssebunya proudly showing the new wall, the beginning of the trench, the water traps and sieves and cover slabs.  We proceeded along the back of the boys’ dormitory to where the trench takes the first bend to the right, to go down the hill behind the classroom block.  The area where the cooking had been last year was bisected by the new trench, so they are cooking on the field side of the trench in a hut made of thin tree branches, bamboo and thatch.  It is even more substantial than the other hut was, and seems to be better overall.

When I had expressed concern during the year that the children would have to cross over the deep water trench to get to the cooking area to fill their plastic buckets and pails with their food portions, Ssebunya had a metal "bridge" designed for the walkway.  It has metal side rails, too, so the children have a very safe passage.

Then we walked along the trench bank to the bottom of the campus hill where the girls' new bathing and toilet area is located.  The workers had been there laying new cement floors and plastering the brick walls between the stalls, and they had painted everything blue (for bathing area) in contrast to the other color scheme of the school which is brown and gold (yellow).  They had even put a new drainage dip in the floor and a drain pipe in the floor so that bath water could be emptied there and it would be drained into a nearby rock pile.

The bottom-most classroom has now been designated for the expansion of girls' dormitory space, so a new door was cut into the lower outside wall, to make it safer and more convenient to the bath/latrine area. The temporary wall between that room and the adjoining one had been bricked in and newly plastered but not yet painted.  Ssebunya said that if they just painted that one wall, it would make the other 3 walls look bad, which is very true.  Actually, the whole room could use a new paint job!!

We inspected the girls' dormitory.  Because this is the first week of school, there were still a lot of empty bunks, but by the end of the next week or so, they will be full. More children are arriving every day, and there is always in the intake process of inventorying their foot lockers for necessities such as composition books, toilet paper, blanket, etc. Some of these children have been boarding at this school with their friends for years, so they are glad to see each other when
they all get back to school in this first week.

I took lots of photos to document the ongoing need for roof gutters and water storage tanks.  We would like to have gutters and tanks for every side of every roof so we can collect water when it rains. Ssebunya said that when it rained steadily for three hours the other day, our current big water tank got filled half way.  So think of how much more water we could collect if we had such a tank under every roof line!

There is also room in the lower part of the schoolyard to bury cisterns.  The water could be collected from branches off our current trench system, then filtered and stored under the ground to pump into the above-ground tanks.  Because the cisterns would be under the ground, they could still have the grassy areas they now have, and even put structures on top.  We just need to find the money for all these things.

Brian rang the bell at 1pm for the children to come out of class for lunch.  Nancy and I stood under the thatched roof where it was shady so we could watch the children get served their portion of posho, broth and beans. They have an hour for lunch, and then back to class. At 3pm they break again until 6pm when they have more studies.

During their recess, we noticed that the boys were on the playground kicking around a ball made of wadded up plastic shopping bags.  Sam told us that the school soccer boys had won a competition last year, but they wore out their old soccer balls.  It's always the same story. Because of the acid in the thick mud when it rains, the balls get destroyed over time, so they need to be replaced regularly.  I think we will try to get them some new soccer balls and net balls for the girls when we are in Kampala on Friday.

Then Abbey came to the school.  We wanted to make sure he was familiar enough with the layout of the school to hold training sessions there for the women we are recruiting for the micro-finance program.  Now we know that the only break in classes on weekdays is between 3 and 6pm, we can have one option for the training be from 4-5pm on weekdays. They also have Saturday morning classes, so the other training time option would be Saturday afternoon.

By then it was getting really hot at the school, so Peter drove us all back to the guest house for shade and another meeting.  It was a time to brief Abbey and Ssebunya on all the preparations for Sunday's introductory finance meeting.  Apparently they now have 70 women who have expressed interest in coming for this meeting.  They have also invited two local councilmen from the government to be introduced at the meeting, so they can be aware of everything we are doing.

We went over the plan for Sunday's meeting, plus pored over the questionnaire that we will be distributing to interested participants. Abbey and Ssebunya noted that we will need to develop and print out a cover sheet for each questionnaire, because the blank that we have for people to write where they live isn't nearly big enough.  They will need to designate each of the seven levels of location: neighborhood, district, parish....etc. whatever the labels are, because here in Uganda there are no postal addresses, and even saying Mutundwe, for example, isn't enough of a designation because it covers a big area.

We also decided we should have each person give us their cell phone number and a backup number in case they can't be reached by the first number.  Then we decided on a sign-in registration form that will be used to keep track of who comes, who gets a questionnaire and who then turns one back in, so Abbey will know if there are any outstanding ones to follow up on.

Then Nancy and I presented our gifts.  She had brought Ssebunya a portable filing box, some hanging files and manila file folders.  He is so organized and thorough that this will help him a great deal to keep track of papers, documents, receipts, etc.  He was very pleased. I also gave him the used laptop computer that Nathan Thomas had sent for me to bring.  There was also a new battery for the notepad computer that Ssebunya had been using.  Finally, a "leg wallet" to use when he goes to the ATM so he could hide all that cash away from his pockets.  They often use their socks to roll down over big wads of cash here, but when you see someone leaving the ATM booth with gigantic sock bumps around their ankles, you know they have large amounts of cash, making them targets for theft.  Nancy and I are both "millionaires" here because every dollar is worth 2350 shillings.  So it doesn't take much of an exchange to get a million shillings in your purse.

I brought professional business cards for Abbey, designating him as the Micro-Finance Coordinator.  Also a shiny silver case to keep the cards in his pocket, otherwise they would get all wrinkled and dirty in this climate.  Then some new notebooks and pens for each of the men, and they left very happy.

We have phone calls in to Dr. Mina to see if we can meet with her regarding the HIV testing this week.  I would also like to meet with the nurse today if possible.  I brought a dozen boxes of antiseptic iodine wipes that she requested, along with some other medicals supplies, bandages and such that I had been saving to bring along.

So now we are off to the school.  I hope Uncle David is there today. It will be good to see him and catch up on all that is happening there.

Until next time,
Love from Uganda,

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday we had a nice meeting with the nurse Mary, and delivered a load of medical supplies that I brought with me, most notably the antiseptic wipes that she had requested.  Nancy and I were able to greet some of the parents as they came with their children.  This is the best part for Uncle David, because he can "show us off" as the Mzungus who are doing all the great things at the school.  He loves that.  The school is looking better all the time, and the parents as well as the community recognize this.


We sat down with Brian, who has had training as an electrician.  We asked him about the electricity usage at the school.  He carefully wrote it all out for us so I can share what we learned with the folks who were asking me to research this, toward the possibility of looking into solar energy.  It is a hefty bill each month.

But...it happens that the water bill is much higher than the electric bill.  This is why we are so eager to get the roof gutters and water tanks and underground cisterns in place.  It would help a great deal toward this problem and expense.  In fact, there is an outstanding bill for both water and electricity left over from last school year. So now the electricity has been shut off. The parents want David to know that they would much rather their children have water than to have electricity, so that is the priority right now.  David will have to raise tuition in order to try to make up these expenses.

After our time at the school, Ssebunya wanted us to stop at his humble home.  He had opened up the laptop that Nathan Thomas had sent via me....to give to Ssebunya.  It replaces the little Eee notebook that I gave him last year.  The battery on that one is shot.  I brought a replacement, but it doesn't fit anyway, so now Ssebunya has the Sony to use.  He was a bit lost on how to set it up and get the internet connected on it, so we were there for about an hour working that out.  He is very glad to have that bigger, faster computer.  Thank you, Nathan!!

Back at the guest house, we watched as 7 men laid out a large shelter tent, and scrubbed and polished it to put up for another party.  This is graduation season, so the guest house yard is being rented for parties.  It was fun watching them carefully set out the metal piping, unfold the big canvas tent and then systematically stretch it and maneuver it to fit over the poles and pipes.  Then they all worked together to hoist the big thing into position, with striped supports that made it look more festive.  It was hard work.  When they were finished, Nancy and I applauded them.  They smiled.

Meanwhile, the guest house owner's daughter Caroline who was raised in the States (part of the time in Pittsburgh!) chatted with us for a bit.  She had found a little gray and white kitten that she named Zorro.  The kitten loves to lark about in the yard, chasing butterflies, pouncing on dangling leaves and hunting under the hedges for creepy crawly things.  So cute!

This morning we went directly from breakfast with Peter to gather up Ssebunya and head for Kampala, to the craft market.  We had to get an early start because of the traffic.  Peter's car is better than the old Corolla he had last year. It's more like a small van and it holds more people and stuff.  Perfect for a shopping trip.  That plus we had to bring along the two big suitcases filled with handmade shorts to deliver to the school after the shopping trip.

The craft market is in a different place now; smaller area; not as many vendors or shoppers.  It seems the market has to keep moving around and so they lose their client base that way.  But I had come prepared with a shopping list for Ssebunya.  He and I sat in the back seat going over it while Peter managed the traffic.  It really helped to know what we paid for things last year so we knew where to start this year.

Peter found a parking space nearby then Nancy and I walked together into the market, leaving Ssebunya with his list and a pocket full of shillings to do the bargaining and shopping.  If I saw something that wasn't on the list that I thought we should include, I would slyly let him know which vendor in this or that aisle was selling that particular item, and could he please get a good price?  Nancy was buying souvenirs, so we already knew what the Mzungu price was.  That helped Ssebunya to know how to bargain.
There were only 2 drums that seemed worthy of purchase, and I want to get 6 this year.  But one drum didn't have a good sound and the other was overpriced.  So we'll have to wait on the drums for another day.

While in Kampala we stopped in town so Ssebunya could get prices on soccer balls for the boys and net balls for the girls.  He did find some at a good price, so we got two of each.  They are Adidas, so they are good quality and should last for a while at least.  The acidy mud is very hard on sports equipment here, so it needs to be replaced whenever the budget allows it.  This time, ARSF was able to buy the balls, and the teachers and children were extremely pleased when we delivered them.

We also dropped off the shorts....over 200 pairs of them.  Uncle David will sort them and distribute them sometime early next week so we can get photos of the boys wearing their new shorts.

It's been a long, HOT day....exhausting, actually....so we are finishing up here at Namirimbe before heading back for dinner.  We hope to get a change from French fries tonight.  Maybe beans and rice. My friend Richard who runs the business center here was so excited to see us when we first got here.  He says I spoil him with peanut butter crackers and chocolates.

Tomorrow morning we must be at the school for a special program that Brian has put together.  The band will play and maybe other things happening.  We are looking forward to that!  Brian was so pleased with the flute I delivered to him.  I also had Nancy google a finger chart while we were on the computer yesterday.  We printed out the chart so I could give it to Brian, just in case no one knows how to play the instrument.   Some student will probably be glad to have the fingering chart,

Enough for today.
Love from Uganda,

Hello Everyone,

I greet you from a new order of nuns called the sisters of the denim jumper (Nancy and I are often seen as nuns, especially since we are dressed so similarly with jumpers we purchased at the Goodwill.)

Our Sunday schedule was full and very exciting.  We first had a briefing with Ssebunya and explained that for the meeting with the micro-business participants we would have to stress the "business" aspect more than the "finance" or the "loans".  I think we may have misled the women who have been invited.  The questionnaire we prepared to use at the meeting therefore had to be changed to the title "Micro-Business".  So Ssebunya had to rush to an internet cafe with his flash drive, make the correction, print out new forms and run back to us.

He had a stapler to bring along because all the previous forms had been stapled to an extended contact information form, which asks each person to say where they are from at all 8 levels, from local district on up, and including a cell phone number and a second cell number in case the first one doesn't work or is out of air time.  They had stapled that cover sheet on the back of the questionnaire, so this became an opportunity to undo all the staples and re-staple to the top of the new documents.

I had brought 60 sharpened pencils and a big bag of pens from home so we were all set.

When we arrived on campus, Brian was excited to tell us that the band was all prepared to give us a little concert.  They had changed into their smart looking uniforms, and were setting up benches in the shade of a tree to sit and play while we sat nearby to listen.  One small boy, about 8 years old, was the band conductor.  His uniform was a bit big on him, but he wore it proudly.  The brass instruments and drums sounded great as the little boy waved his arms in tempo.

They started out with "Silent Night".  I wish the trumpets had hit an A natural instead of an A flat each time....(arrggh) but they were quite confident that it sounded lovely.  After the first verse, they morphed into a cha cha beat, so it was "Silent night" cha cha cha with a fancy ending.

Then they played another tune and ended with "When the Saints Go Marching In", which was my favorite.  Nancy and I clapped loudly, and lots of students and arriving parents and children were looking on.  It was a very busy day for arriving people, lots of boda bodas and vehicles swinging into the parking bay.  Mattresses, foot lockers and other paraphernalia everywhere.

Soon the women started arriving for the Micro-Business introductory meeting.  We had announced a 3pm starting time but of course we are on Africa time, so at 3pm we had three people.  I was a bit nervous about that, but as time passed more women walked up the drive.  We stationed Abbey outside the classroom door where the meeting was to take place so he could greet them.

By 3:45 there were about 35 women and we decided we should start at 4pm.  Those who were already there were very hot from walking and sitting, so I sent Ssebunya and Peter to the village to buy two cases of cold sodas with drinking straws. At 5 minutes to 4 I went into the meeting room and explained that as soon as the cold drinks arrived we could start.  They were happy about that.

Just at 4 the car came bouncing up the drive with the cold pop in the boot.  Several children (students) rushed to carry the cases down the hill into the classroom, and they also helped to pass out the drinks and straws.  The teachers helped, too.  At that time we were also circulating a registration sheet so we would have a complete list of all those who came.

Then I started the meeting.  I introduced myself, Nancy and Ssebunya, then from that point on Ssebunya translated everything I said.  We introduced Uncle David, Abbey and the teachers and matrons.  A local councilman had been invited but we knew he had another meeting, so we didn't wait for him.  Uncle David wasn't feeling good.  He had a fever, so we were a bit worried about him.  After I introduced him he left to get some fresh air and to oversee the incoming crowd of students and parents.  The band was now located up by the boys’ dormitory, playing for the arriving families.

After we started the meeting, though, we had to politely ask the band to stop because the sound was bouncing off the outside wall of the girls’ dorm and really interfered with our meeting.

The informational part of the meeting where all aspects of the program were explained lasted about 45 minutes, including Q/A.  Then we started in on the questionnaire.  Because the women came from different locations we decided that the best thing to do was to go step by step through each question so that all forms would be completely finished right then and there, even if it took more time.  This worked well because there were about 10 women who were completely illiterate and needed extra help in filling out the forms.

But they had plenty of help with those of us who stood by.  We were even able to determine which meeting day would work best for all participants for the training program.  They unanimously chose Sunday afternoons, so Uncle David approved that.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Abbey wrote his contact info on the black board and everyone wrote that down.  The women seemed very happy to be part of this new venture, and we all felt good about the way things had gone.

Just as we were wrapping up, the wife of the local commissioner arrived, too late.  But Abbey greeted her and thanked her for coming.

The children helped to gather up all the empty soda bottles, we loaded them into the car to return to the shop, and then went back to the guest house.  By then it was late and dark, and we were thirsty, hungry and tired.  But we had a very productive meeting (me, Nancy, Abbey and Ssebunya) over dinner, as we talked about next steps and the support that and coaching that would be provided by the ICUUW.

After we finished eating, Asmay the server emptied some chicken bones onto the ground for Zorro.  Lucky kitty!!  I had been holding him, purring, in my arms and he was extremely pleased to find his scrap pile waiting for him when I set him down on the grass.

The owner of the guest house had arrived from the States that afternoon.  Her daughter Caroline runs the place in her stead.  Of course, I used the opportunity to again say that I am the one who first posted photos and a description of their guest house on Trip Advisor, and said nice things about them.  And since that time two years ago, their business has increased and lots of people leave comments on TA.  (This gives us a special rate at the guest house...that's why I like to remind them.)

As we were leaving the table, I spotted a man I had met last year here, named David.  He's a civil engineer from Ireland and spends 10 months a year in Uganda....the far south east corner; running an orphan home and hospital.  He was pleased that I remembered him.

Nancy is glad that I've been here enough times that I already know where to stay that has hot water and electricity most of the time.  A far cry from the early days at the old Comprehensive Hotel!!

Meanwhile, the hand cut metallic confetti is still in the grass from the graduation party.  Nancy and I would like to get a shopvac out there and clean the place up, but quite honestly, they don't even notice things like that.  The confetti sits there along with bottle caps and other litter from day to day, but on the other hand, they truly value a clean floor, so the tiles get swept and scrubbed every morning until they shine brightly.  Different cultures have different values.

Today we are going to the school to see how the first day is going, then we will take a little trip to visit Ssebunya's father, out of courtesy to him.  Last year I got to meet his elderly mother (not his natural mother, though).  He seems quite pleased to be able to show us off that way.

Enough for now.
Sending love from Uganda,


Feb 2

Hello Everyone,

The computers at Namirimbe are so bad this year that we are now using Ssebunya's computer and modem for our "business office".  It's a shame because my friend Richard who works there will miss seeing us.

Other folks I miss seeing are the Indian people who ran the Sahara Market near the Comprehensive Hotel.  The new shopping complex (big building with dozens of shops that was built over several years right beside the hotel) is now finished, and even more, there is a new road between the hotel and the shopping complex which leads behind to yet another shopping area of kiosks and small businesses.  So I think our Indian friends had to find another venue.  I was sorry to not find them this year. Even the car washing bay is gone because of the businesses building up in that area.


The graduation party at the guest house went until 10:30pm when the loud music finally stopped.  There had been lots of people, three grads wearing their caps and gowns, plenty of long speeches and tributes, then the music. The next morning the ground was covered with shrapnel left over from multi colored confetti that they had thrown everywhere.  It is not biodegradable, so it will probably be there for years to come.

Each tent pole had been wrapped with green and yellow ribbons, and green and yellow bunting had been hung all along the sides of the tent.  I think the school colors must be green and yellow!  Meanwhile, Zorro the kitten was unimpressed by any of those festivities, as he continued to cavort and play around the guest's feet.

I noticed that the first main road from Nateete to the road that turns off to the hill going up to the school has much wider drainage ditches on each side this year.  The folks who have hutches and small huts with businesses on either side are having to lay very long wooden planks to walk across the ditches, and in some places they smell like raw sewage.  It is apparent that the buildings and houses going up in the neighborhood of the school are probably not required to have a sewage or drainage plan, so everything runs literally downhill.  Those at the bottom must put longer and longer planks to walk across the expanding ditches.  Very troubling.

The turnoff road is on a list of roads soon to be paved.  Former volunteers will remember the disastrous condition of that road, especially after a strong rain.  It's still bad, but they anticipate a smooth road soon.  We were lumbering our way up, dodging the ruts and holes when a large lorry truck, piled high with goods and a couple of men, hit a big bump.  The truck jumped and several large bundles flew off the truck and landed in the middle of the dusty road, amid traffic etc.  Peter won't drive up that way unless it's absolutely necessary.

The craft market was smaller this year.  Ssebunya did a great job with the checklist, but we were still on the lookout for drums. On our way somewhere else, I spotted some drum crafters along the side of the road, so I called out to go back.  Peter turned the car around and we pulled up across the way so Ssebunya could go out and negotiate the price I had in mind.   Once he got the price, he motioned to me to come and pick the drums because I have to try them all before buying.  They must sound good!
So I purchased 7 drums...Nancy wants one....and we later took them back to the guest house so she could try them all and see which one "spoke" to her.  They are all just great!  The man who made them was very pleased to have sold so many in one day.  Two of the drums were especially furry on top (goat skin) so he shaved them for me.  I will be selling the drums, first come first served, for $50 each.

Yesterday we had a little time to visit the King's Tombs.  It happened to be Feb. 1, and on the first of every month all national sites that are upgrading with public monies are open for inspection to the public.  So when we arrived there were hundreds of Ugandans inspecting the reconstruction of the tomb that had been burned a few years ago by El Shabab (in addition to the bombings, in retribution for Uganda, a Christian country, supporting the rebels in Somalia.)

It felt rather like a festival, with children running around, climbing trees, families holding babies, walking all over the grounds.  We had a personalized guided tour by a lovely man named Steven.  He gave us the history of the kings, and of course, when we saw the map with photos of all the previous Presidents of Uganda, there was Ssebunya's grandfather.  He had been President for only 3 months, when his enemies forced him into exile to the UK.  Ssebunya remembers being a little boy and spending time in room 25 at the Presidential State House (their version of the White House).

At the school, Nancy, the engineer, presented a report to Uncle David, Waswa, Brian and Sam.  She had taken all the numbers of water and electricity usage and turned them into percentages and comparisons, to show how much more important the water situation is than the electric one.  She will write all this up and type it into a form that can be shared with the folks who have been asking me whether solar energy could be an option at the school, and also those who are asking to help with the water situation.
While she was doing that, I saw Twaha appear...one of my favorite teachers whom I hadn't yet seen this year.  He was so pleased to greet me.  We had a lovely chat, remembering how far the school has come since we first met all those years ago.

Uncle David confessed that if we had not replaced the old tumbled down wooden buildings with the brick ones (thank you Peggy Macchetto!), the school would have had to close the following year.  So we owe a great deal to her and to so many others who have contributed to the campus upgrades over the years.

It seems that every year there is something that pre-empts our plans.  This year, the inspectors have said that we need to pave all the loose gravel areas that still get too muddy when it rains.  David had borrowed a lot of money to cement that whole area, and he has a year to pay it back.  But it's things like that that interfere with the plans we try to make.
It turns out that the band performance was rescheduled to this afternoon to coincide with the people who are coming to the micro business meeting.  David wanted the people to see the band playing when they come onto campus.  He's always thinking of great ideas like that!

He also wanted to distribute the shorts to the boys on Thursday, as part of the farewell ceremony for us before we leave.  So we are good with that, too.  I'll take lots of photos!
It's fun to have Nancy here, and see Africa again through her new eyes.  She is fascinated by the ant hills, the landscape, the hurry scurry of people, traffic, businesses, etc.

This morning, Sunday, the dining room of the guest house was in use by some Christians who were starting a worship service.  People were arriving as we were leaving....all dressed up for the service....singing, clapping, praying.  Very energetic.

So now it's time to start our school experience.  Thank goodness for Ssebunya's computer.  Thank you Nathan!!!

More later.
Love from Uganda,


Hello Everyone,

On Monday morning after breakfast, and after a massage from Zorro the kitten (he was massaging my stomach and purring as I held him....acting like I was his mother and he was hungry....so cute).....we stopped at the Namirimbe Business Centre to pay our bill for CPU use and copies made.  My friend Richard has been sick all week with some kind of fever, and so wasn't there.  I explained to someone that there were little scraps of paper tucked under the receipt book that we used to keep track of our time and expenses, and we were here to pay because we won't be using the business center any more this year, and I critiqued their setup, all so as to make it better.  They haven't updated browser systems, one CPU must be infected, and their main server couldn't get online the other day and no one to help or no way to figure it out.  So sorry.  It was a great and convenient place, but now we'll find other options.

Then we went up to the school.  Many students had already arrived the week before, but Monday was the first actual day for the teachers.  Classes were in session by the time we arrived.  They begin at 8am with the announcements assembly, and then classes begin at 8:30. They break at 10:30 for porridge, then back in class until lunch around 1pm to 2pm.  Class until 3pm, then another break until 6 for another round of class.  They finish by 7pm.


Here on the equator the sun comes up quickly at 7am and sets almost as quickly by 7pm....every day all year around.  Very predictable.

At the school, we talked with Waswa to see if they had gotten all the final results of the end-of-year exams by P7.  We had heard that the highest score of 1-1-1-1 was achieved by at least one student, but we then learned that there were actually three students who got those scores...the best you can get...on the regional standardized tests.  Ssebunya said it would be great if we could give prizes to those students, so we waited to get the three names and sizes of the children (they have already "graduated" and left) so we could go shopping for some new clothing for them. Ssebunya thought clothing was the best gift.  It turns out there were two girls and one boy who get prizes.  So we made our list.

Uncle David was feeling a little better, but either way, he has to stay at work and do all those big and little tasks required to start up another school year.  After greeting more teachers, children and parents, we headed off to do errands.

First we had to go to a special office to register my cell phone.  Since I was here last year, all African cell phones must be registered by the government.  This is a result of terrorists and other problems.  They must keep track of every phone.  So I had special forms to fill out, passport photos to produce (I always carry extra ones with me to Africa, because you never know when they will be required), my SIM card number, a photo copy of my driver's license (which I also always carry with me when I travel) and a few shillings to give to a certain young person who makes extra money by knowing exactly how to fill out the form correctly (an entrepreneur for sure!)

That done, Nancy and I had accepted an invitation to visit Ssebunya's elderly father who lives about 45 minutes from here, in the family home where he has lived for over 60 years, and where Ssebunya spent most of his growing up years. We arrived at a lovely, typical Ugandan home, very simple and practical, with the father waiting eagerly to meet us.  We greeted him the Ugandan respectful way with hugs and greetings.

The father's home is furnished as many homes are, with huge overstuffed chairs and a sofa, almost two big for the room, too big to walk around.  There were glass topped tables, a rug on the floor and a big antique wooden cabinet that held china dishes, glasses and serving trays.

We were introduced to a young woman who came in briefly and bowed when shaking hands and greeting us.  She is the father's youngest wife, probably in her 40's.  Another young woman, probably a servant, occupied herself with serving us cold drinks from a nearby shop and asking what we would like to eat.  They were using the neighborhood cooking kiosk to purchase the food, and once it started coming, there was a lot.  They had containers of chicken, beef with broth, French fries, and matouke.  The men each got a huge plate that was piled high with food, including what looked to be rice under everything.  Abbey lives in that neighborhood, too, so he joined us and helped to serve the food and drinks.

After we ate, another woman arrived.  It was one of Ssebunya's sisters named Rachael, who had lived in the UK for a while and spoke very good English.  A tiny calico cat named Bill ambled into the room and of course, I just had to pick him and find his itchy spot for a massage and purring session.  We learned that Bill, although even smaller than Zorro the kitten, is an old cat.  The breed here is obviously much smaller.  The servant turned on the TV and we all watched an old Japanese movie with English dubbed-over voices.   Next came a cartoon.  I asked Ssebunya how long we were going to stay, since we had shopping to do.  He said we should go.

Meanwhile, the father had left the room and the wife had disappeared, so Ssebunya went to look for his father to say a proper good-bye.  Father joked and said he wondered how long we were going to stay.  He was thinking of hiring a boy to slay the fatted calf for yet another meal, and then we would probably stay the night.  Of course he was kidding, but it helped me to see that we had stayed long enough.  The farewell took place in the front of the house, where he could do the Ugandan send off with waves and good-byes as we drove off.  Father didn't stay too long outdoors because it was overcast and he was feeling chilly.  (Imagine that!!!!)

The next adventure was to wend out way into Kampala to the wholesale district where we would purchase special clothing for the 3 prize winning students.  Naturally, there was a humongous traffic jam with matatus, bodas, cars, trucks, bicycles, buses, etc. all vying for the same street space.  By the time you get to the wholesale district you have passed by the biggest taxi park in Kampala, with literally hundreds of white (sort of) mini vans all parked in row after row.  I did a Google satellite once of Kampala and that taxi park looks like a plate of white rice!

After passing that and the big Hindu temple, we arrived at the very busiest part of that shopping area, with buildings and arcades of shopping places everywhere. Peter couldn't find a parking place so Ssebunya, Nancy and I had to get out and angle our way through all the people and traffic.  Ssebunya led the way, Nancy in the middle and me in the back, making sure all was well.  Also, we had to pretend not to be with Ssebunya so as to avoid the Mzungu prices.

Meanwhile, out on the streets and sidewalks, we had to dodge lots of men carrying huge loads of merchandise from inside to outside, mostly on their heads or shoulders.  Because the 3 of us are tall, we had to take special care to not get knocked off our feet by that, or to be sideswiped by the rush of shoppers on either side.  It was rather like being in the queen's chamber of a cockroach colony.

After stopping at several different shops to look, we ended up with two lovely elastic-waisted sun dresses (so as to accommodate growing girls) and a brightly patterned cotton shirt for the boy.  When were finished, we had to hike up a very tall street, crossing several busy intersections, to get to a place where Peter could be called to find us.  It happened to be the parking lot of a big building that was holding an evangelical healing service with much yelling, preaching, singing, music, etc.  Eventually Peter arrived and we could head out of the city and back to the guest house.

Nancy and I had already pre-ordered matouke for dinner, so we were very well fed that day....lots of carbs!  But since we had hiked so much, we hoped we had worked off many of the calories.  We then ordered some breakfast for the next morning, when we would be leaving at 6am for our trip to Lake Mburo.  We asked for 2 hard-boiled eggs each, along with 2 bananas each, because the staff isn't up that early to do any cooking.  They had it all ready even before we went to bed. Another beautiful sunset to cap off the day, along with some welcome evening breezes which were a little cooler than the blasting heat of the day.

On Tuesday, we wanted to get an early start because it is a 3 1/2 hour drive, and the animals like to move about early in the morning.  Peter came right on time, and Ssebunya was also ready.  So in the dark of the pre-dawn day we set out.  At that hour, out on the highway there are lots of big lorries and trucks loaded down with everything imaginable.  Ssebunya said they travel more at night so they won't get stopped for putting too much weight on the truck.  

Soon we were out in the countryside, bathed with the early misty light.  School children and workers were already on their long paths beside the road, sometimes walking long miles to get to where they are going.  On the road west, you come to the equator itself.  Of course, you have to get out to have the fun of putting one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the south.  Zero degrees latitude!  Also, the tourist police officer on the scene pointed out the various vessels for testing which way water swirls when going down a drain.  The one on the north side moves clockwise, the one in the south counter clockwise (I think I got that right) and the one right on the equator goes straight down.

The guard was so eager to have us understand that he emphasized by putting his hand up in the air, wrist bent with an index finger pointing at the ground, then zooming his hand down with a flourish, saying in a loud voice, "Straight down!"

Along the roadside you see so many interesting things, including the various family businesses.  Peter is such a careful driver, always obeying the speed limits, etc. unlike the huge buses that pass on hills and almost push you off the highway.  I still don't understand why there are so darn many SPEED BUMPS on roads that in themselves are almost like extended speed bumps.  It makes no sense.

I was hoping to spot a crested crane; that tall stately bird which is the national bird of Uganda, along the side of the road.  I saw one a couple of years ago, standing by a papyrus field near the road.  Peter had to stop the car at one point to examine one rear tire.  I was hoping nothing was wrong.  The further you get from home in Uganda, the bigger the risk you are taking, because if something goes wrong with the car you could be stranded for a very long time out in the bush.

From time to time along the highway there are traffic police standing in groups on either side.  I was ducking down so they wouldn't see me, but both Peter and Ssebunya said I didn't have to do that.  In the past, I've been riding when the traffic police stopped us for no reason, just to collect a bribe from the Mzungu.  They said if I ducked down, the police might think I was being kidnapped and they would be even more likely to stop us!

Meanwhile, we were passing by vast fields of papyrus, maize, bamboo, swamps, cattle, goats, mud huts with thatched roofs, businesses all brightly painted with the MTN ads or some other company that will paint your building in exchange for their chance to advertise.  One village obviously had a water problem because so many bicycles and other small vehicles were all piled up with jerry cans filled with water, headed to and from an outlying water source.  Most of the vehicles were operated by children.  It seems to be their job to gather water.
Most of the modest homes in that area had TV antennas on the roof, held in place with long poles lashed together to a height of about 40 feet above the roof.  We stopped at a gas station for a break, and they were selling mandas—donut-like deep fried dough balls.  We got some of those, and later we stopped again for cleaner toilets at a nice roadside inn, where they had even better mandas, fresh from the fryer, much fluffier and tastier than the first ones.

So the next thing that happened was that we got stopped at a traffic police checkpoint.  The officers looked all around the car front and back, and especially inside where they saw the chance to ask for money to clear us for driving.  20 thousand did the job.  Peter said bribes are more common at this time of the year because so many people have to come up with school fees for their children.  That's the Ugandan way.

Soon after that Nancy spotted a crested crane on her side of the road.  Wow.  That was great!  We also saw other birds, including a bunch of vultures congregating around some garbage pile of who knows what. Eventually we saw the turnoff road to the lake.  After 8 more Kms we arrived at the park entrance, which is 15 km's from the lake.  I had gone to the National Park website and printed out the fees so they couldn't tweak those, but they still did, based on what THEY said the exchange rate was that day.

Once in the refuge, the narrow road took us through the bush where we saw herds of zebras, bush boks, antelopes, impalas, other kinds of deer-like herds, long horned cows, warthogs, baboon, monkeys birds...there are millions of anthills, most of which each have a bush or tree growing out of the top; the size of which depending on the degree of deterioration of the ant hill. I imagine there is quite an eco-system connected with that whole process.  We learned that there are at least 2 lions that hung out in the park.

When we got to the lake, Peter parked in the shade, and we noticed right away the several baboons that were swaggering around like they owned the place.  You don't want to mess with them because they are strong and have very big teeth.  Near the lake there are large bushes that are absolutely alive with several varieties of butterflies.  I tried to get a video of the flurry, but I'm not sure it could adequately capture it.

We had passed an injured warthog coming into the park.  His tusk area was bleeding and he was lying covered with cool mud in a puddle, probably waiting to die.  Down by the lake there were other warthogs.  One very large one shuffled under the lakeside restaurant pilings, right down to the waters' edge for a nice drink and bath.

Soon it was time to board the small canvasses-topped motorized safari boat for our lake trip.  Two more Americans drove up just in time to share the expense of the boat, which all of us appreciated.

So many gorgeous species of birds live there....315 different varieties.  And many were living right there.  Bright colors, amazing diving abilities, weaver birds with their intricate nests hanging over the water, African fish eagles sitting in pairs looking down from treetops.  

There were already several hippos swimming a surfacing around the boat.  Ssebunya was terrified because he thought the hippos were going to attack us.  He was also fearful of the crocodiles in the lake.  He thought the hippos would overturn the boat and that the crocodiles would somehow fling themselves into the boat.  We had sat him plunk in the middle seat, and tried to console him that he would be the last morsel they would find.  The croc would eat us first. But he said he is a man and would protect the women, so he would never allow that.  He would be among the first of the morsels

The park rangers who were piloting the boat tried to reassure Ssebunya who got quite vocal at times about his concerns.  He was saying that hippos could get violent during mating season but the rangers said they are used to the boat and respect it. But of course, it didn't help that right before our eyes, the biggest bull hippo decided to show us what "mating" meant.  That didn't help the anxiety level on the boat!

We also spotted several crocs.  The biggest one was still in the water; the smaller ones were sunning themselves on overhanging tree branches.  We also saw a pair of very large water buffalo at the water's edge, sheltering under the low hanging leaves.

After about an hour, we came back to the shore and Nancy and I got out the food and snacks we had brought for a picnic.  Peter had stayed in the car to guard everything from the baboons, but we really know he fears the water.

So we sat by the lake and enjoyed peanut butter crackers, fruit, granola bars, dried figs, nuts and chocolates with cold drinks.  A couple of warthogs stayed nearby to see if there would be any scraps to eat.  They lucked out with banana peels and mango pits.

After lunch we got back into the car for the long, hot drive back, with the bully buses and massive numbers of bodas as we got closer to town.  Each segment of highway shows off the particular businesses that are in that area: charcoal, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, vegetables, etc. The road kill in this part of the country is interesting:  stray dogs, maybe a cat or a monkey or two.  We stopped at an area that was rife with rickety fruit stands so Ssebunya could get us some papaya, passion fruit, mangos, cassava and jackfruit.  I thought Peter might be getting tired so I offered him and Ssebunya some chewing gum, which they gladly accepted.  But I noticed that they tend to keep the gum for more than one use.  Today Peter was chewing it again.

We arrived back at Ssebunya's place to pick up his computer and satellite internet modem to use back at the guest house, however, the modem had fallen out on his sitting room floor, so we didn't get online until this afternoon.

And when we did, his computer had frozen, so we had to call Abbey to travel this way to let us borrow his laptop, which is what we are using at the moment.

This morning we went to the school to meet Dr. Mina and to distribute the shorts.  She never showed up and we think she must have had some sort of emergency.  But the nurse Mary came and we briefed her on what we are hoping to achieve with Dr. Mina's organization "Uganda Cares".  I also made sure that Mary has enough meds for this term for ringworm (several girls have it on their heads) and deworming for all the children, which is very important every term.

A former teacher named Joseph stopped by to visit the school and it was much fun seeing him again.

The shorts distribution process was a bit chaotic, but I have photos and videos and will tell the churches all about it on the upcoming Sundays.  Now we are at Ssebunya's place while doing emails and watching documentaries on his DVD player about the wild animals of Africa, which he was very eager for us to see.

Now we will head back to the guest house where it is cooler, and where we can get some cold drinks while waiting for our dinner date at the safari restaurant.  This will be our last celebratory dinner before heading back to the States.

Enough for now.
Love from Uganda,


Hello Everyone,

This is a wrap-up on my time in Uganda. I was sitting in the garden with Nancy and Ssebunya when I was delighted to see my friend Marion from UK at the guesthouse as she was passing through, and I called out to her.  She is the woman I met there last year who works with water systems in Ugandan public schools.  She also has an expanding coffee business called Big Gorilla, which seems to going very well.


She came over to join us for a while, and we invited her to come to dinner with us at the safari restaurant later that evening.  Her son-in-law from Australia was also around, so she said she might bring him along, too--to a special meal marking our last full night in Uganda.


When Peter came to pick us up I noticed that he had placed fresh cardboard panels on the floor of the car to keep it clean (well, cleanER), so it was indeed a special occasion. I was remembering last year when I took Peter and Ssebunya and Marion to that restaurant, the waiter served a several course meal beginning with an elegant pumpkin soup, and neither Peter nor Ssebunya even wanted to taste it. As we drove to the restaurant where Abbey was to meet us, we talked about the soup and how I remembered the men not wanting it.  They joked and said that it was Mzungu soup.  They didn't eat that kind of thing.  Then we had the fun of placing "bets" on whether Abbey would try the soup, because he is rather prone to wanting to please us.


When we got to the restaurant it was closed; no one there, only Abbey waiting for us.  The boda drivers around there said it was indeed closed, but that it would be opening again in March.  I remembered that Marion said there was an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, so we decided to find that instead. We had to call the guest house to alert her so that she and her son-in-law would know where to find us.


Sure enough, it was a lovely place situated on a terrace, with a porch-like dining area that opened to a great view of Kampala.  The name of the place is O'kla, and we finally figured out that it wasn't an Ethiopian word;  it meant "Old Kampala", which is the section of town where the restaurant is located.  The menu included both traditional local foods and Ethiopian choices, and so the three men ordered their favorite meal:  matouke with beef.  Nancy and I ordered the full Ethiopian deal, with the giant edible bread "plate" covered with an assortment of spicy dishes that got wrapped into torn pieces of the bread.  We both had a greenish colored pineapple avocado drink, which was very tasty.


Soon Marion and her son-in-law Sam joined us and we got to talking about our discoveries at the school regarding the electrical and water situation, since she knows a lot about those types of things (plus she has lived in Uganda for 11 years now.)  We told her that we had been researching the feasibility of solar energy and what did she think about that?


Her answer had nothing to do with the relative cost of installing versus using the power, it had to do with much more practical information, like the fact that there is no way to keep the solar panels from getting stolen, and that they very quickly get saturated with red dust which means the panels have to be cleaned almost daily. 

She told of a school where some well-meaning westerners had installed the equipment for the energy retrieval very solidly in a classroom wall, much like at ATM is installed, with anti-theft in mind, but that the thieves easily removed the panels from the roof.  I was thinking about how red dust is everywhere and how it just covers everything and makes things so dirty and grimy.  There is no way that panels, especially if attached to the top of corrugated metal roofs, could be maintained daily.


So....that pretty much scuttles the idea of solar energy at the school. At least for now.


After our lovely meal and conversation, Nancy and I returned to the guest house to begin packing for our return to the States the following night, since we would be checking out of the guest house before noon.  I was hoping to get by with just two large suitcases, but with the six drums, I ended up with three after all.  The drums are well padded with quantities of cloth goods, such as aprons and bags so they should arrive safely.


I always have a big bag of clothing that I wore during my stay, to give to the women teachers at the school on my last day there.  I always have to explain that the clothing is theirs; they just have to have the matron wash it.  Nancy put things in the bag, too.  After our farewells at the guest house we headed off to get Ssebunya. Just after pulling out of the driveway we got to witness an accident, where two bodas, going very fast, collided in the street.  The drivers were both thrown to the ground.  One had a big load of merchandise which spilled everywhere.  Soon a crowd gathered to help the two men, picking up the wares and seeing about injuries.  Peter had to maneuver around the stopped traffic. 


I had borrowed the laptop from Abbey to use for one day at the guest house, so I was returning that to Ssebunya's place.  Every time we went in and out of Ssebunya's home with the laptop, we had to have it wrapped in raggedy plastic bags so his neighbors wouldn't know it was something valuable.  When talking about the parcel, we referred to it as "chapatti" (Indian bread) and the modem as the "sauce" for the chapatti.


While sitting in his home using the laptop and talking about school business, Ssebunya kept either his small TV or a portable radio turned on so our voices would be drowned out.  There was a lot to do, so while I was using the laptop Ssebunya showed DVD documentaries of wild African animals for Nancy, and then when she worked, I got to watch the documentaries. We had some paper work to do for the school regarding sponsorship lists and other things which I then transferred to a flash drive so we could go to a reliable internet place known for safe computers without viruses to get things printed up (later in downtown Kampala).


After finishing our time with the "chapatti", we headed to the school to say our final good-byes and leave off our laundry/clothing/gift bag.  Uncle David is still sick with a fever.  We think it's malaria.  So Waswa greeted us.  He wanted to know if he should assemble all the children to say good-bye to us, but we said we would not want to disrupt classes any more than necessary, so we opted to go from classroom to classroom instead.


Each time we entered a class, the whole group stood up and said in unison, "Good morning Uncle Waswa.  You are welcome."  When asked, "How are you?"  The children all answered together, "We are fine, sir, and how are you?"  Nancy and I said our final words of encouragement to each class, and when we got to P7, Ssebunya said he wanted to say something.  He told the class that the three students from the previous year who got the highest scores on the final exams each got a nice prize of clothing.  (We had to leave the prizes in the possession of Uncle David because the three are now "graduated" and live at a distance from the school.  They will come back another day for the presentation in front of the whole school.)


He wanted them to know that if they work hard they might also win such a prize.  In fact, that was one of the main points of offering the prizes; to reward the best students from last year, and to encourage the students from this year.


After our visit, we headed to Kampala to get our copies made.  Nancy and I sat in the car with Peter while Ssebunya went to Uganda House to their business office. While we sat there, we saw another crowd gathering on the sidewalk beside us.  A man had been the victim of a hit and run boda accident, and he was injured.  People were using their cell phones, perhaps trying to get help.  A police officer soon came by to see what was going on.


In Uganda, there are more boda drivers than anything.  There are training classes for the drivers, but not all of them take the classes.  Not all of them understand safety or even the importance of wearing a helmet.  So there are lots of boda accidents; some very serious for both drivers and passengers.


After Ssebunya returned with the papers we needed, it was time to get out of the city and on to Entebbe, to spend the rest of our daylight hours closer to the airport.  That way we wouldn't be risking getting stuck in Kampala traffic.  I was still looking in the "stork trees" for a nest with fuzzy white babies in it to show to Nancy, and we did manage to spot one at last!


We had decided to spend some time at the Entebbe Zoo, which is now called the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. It is located right on the shore of Lake Victoria. After purchasing the tickets we passed by some of those cutouts where you can put your face in the opening to get your photo taken.  I put my face behind the one of the monkey and called to Ssebunya.  He had never seen those things before, so he thought that was pretty funny.


We noticed that there was a sign that said "Emergency Assembly Point" and I commented on it....just in case there was a wild animal attack...ha ha ha.  Ssebunya didn't think that was funny.  He had seen too many documentaries about how wild animals can get angry and attack.  He took that seriously.


The zoo is a lovely place to spend some time.  There we saw many of the animals we had seen in the bush last week, in addition to ostriches, giraffes, rhinos and snakes.  Ssebunya was happy to find out that the big African snakes were displayed behind walls of thick glass.  He had already asked if there were running free.  We passed two places along the walk that were live streams of red ants, almost shining in the sun like rivers of water. We were warned to not get too close because they will climb up your leg and bite you.  The Americans we met at Lake Mburo the other day had that happen, even though they were wearing long pants tucked into socks and hiking boots.  They said it was very painful. Because Nancy and I were wearing dresses, we walked wide of the ant "rivers".


On the giraffe range, you could purchase food pellets.  The ranger would rattle the food bucket and the giraffes would come.  Nancy and Ssebunya decided to watch from the observation platform as I fed the giraffes from my hand.  These elegant animals have such gorgeous big eyes and eyelashes, and they have purple tongues.  When they nuzzle into your hand you can use your other hand to pet their snouts, just like a horse.  I had to wash my hands afterwards because they had been "slimed" with giraffe saliva.

Then we looked for the lions.  We found them all lying in the heat of the day with fat bellies after just being fed by the rangers, draped like furry rags over big rocks, probably trying to get as much coolness out of them as possible.  They hardly knew we were there, but the observation area seemed to Ssebunya to be much too close and so he strictly warned us to move away.


Nancy and were enjoying watching the animals, but soon we noticed that Ssebunya had already headed off toward the Emergency Assembly Point.  He wasn't kidding.  In fact, before we left the zoo premises, he went to the service desk and lodged a complaint about the display, citing that it was much too dangerous for visitors to be so close to the lions.  I was wondering if Ssebunya should be spending so much time watching documentaries about wild animals, or maybe we westerners are just too trusting about things like that.  Hmmmm....


After leaving the zoo, we drove toward Entebbe looking for a place to eat away from the obvious tourist places. We had to slow down at one point because a huge herd of vervet monkeys swarmed across the road.  There were whole families, including many tiny baby monkeys that were so cute.


In Entebbe, Ssebunya found "Faith's Restaurant" in a downstairs area with the back open to the breezes from the lake.  Peter parked the car in such a way that we could watch it while we ate, because we had all of our luggage in there.


It was traditional food; matouke with peanut sauce, rice, peas, etc.  The men ordered matouke with beef (again!)


But then it was getting on toward 6pm and Nancy and thought Peter should make his way back through Kampala traffic to be with his family for the evening.  So we went to the airport.  As we arrived we discovered a new police checkpoint where everyone has to get out of their vehicles and be questioned and frisked by the police.  We then said our good-byes to Peter and Ssebunya after they helped wheel the heavy luggage carts up the big hill to the departure door.  Nancy and I were surprised in the outer waiting area to see Sam, Marion's son-in-law also at the airport.  He was headed for Heathrow, and then to Milan where he would catch up with his people.


While we sat at the airport, a young man and his sister were very excited to take our photos.  Not sure why, but they wanted to know all about us and were very happy to meet us.  It's that way in Uganda.  People are so friendly and gracious.


Other short takes:

One day at the school we were standing in the parking area and saw a small student, probably about 6 years old, wearing a pink backpack, hiking down the driveway away from the school.  Teachers Rebecca and Eve had come out of their classroom and were calling to him, but he wasn't looking back.  He was running away from school; probably thinking he wanted to go home, so away he went.


Uncle Waswa went after him and didn't scold him.  He just picked him up in his big arms and carried him back to his classroom where the teachers comforted him and welcomed him back.


One house near the school has a lot of pigeons flying around and landing on the rooftops and walls.  I noticed that someone had made makeshift nesting areas for them by wiring half-cut jerry cans to the eave lines.  Now they could have pigeon stew whenever they wanted some.


Flowers--everywhere! Jacaranda trees, yellow-flowered scrambled egg trees, palm trees of every kind, giant hyacinth bushes, roses, bougainvillea of all colors cascading over walls, big flying saucer morning glories, sweet pea vines, and dozens of species of other flowering trees and plants that are so beautiful and fragrant.  All that certainly offsets the sight of grimy dust that covers so much of the green foliage along the roadside.


Ant hills-they are everywhere.  Millions of them.  The active ones are red and very tall and wide.  The ants have elaborate tunnels and lives and they carry their food into the catacombs of the interior.  Some of that food consists of seeds, and so as the ant hill ages the seeds begin to grow into bushes and trees.  So many of the big trees and bushes are elevated a bit because of the ant hill they are growing from.


After ants abandon a hill it is a haven for snakes who love to occupy the tunneled creations.  Boys who want some adventure will cut into an ant hill looking for snakes.  This can be very dangerous, especially if the snake inside is a black mamba or some other such deadly poisonous viper.


Baby talk:  Brian (whose baby girl Kay is about a year old) said that if a baby's first word is "Mama", then the baby will grow up to be very smart, but if the baby's first word is "Tata" (daddy) then-not so smart.  Apparently some people really believe this and will ask what the baby's first word was.


All in all, another great trip to Uganda.  I look forward to showing photos and telling more about my adventures to the churches on upcoming Sundays.


So for now, and for this year,
Love to all from Renee


Volunteers' Blog: Renee Waun (2013)


January 30, 2013


Hello Everyone,
I made it to Uganda all safe and sound, and my mission to find the perfect Belgian waffle and chocolate at the Brussels airport was a success. YES!


Ssebunya, our Liaison Officer and driver Peter were waiting for me when I deplaned. No trouble with luggage or customs, I zipped right through. I did have one problem, though. I had hooked my reading glasses over my pocket flap so they'd be handy and in the process of hugging my friends and lugging big heavy suitcases, my glasses got lost somewhere in the airport. Couldn't even see to set my alarm last night.


My room at the Manhattan Guest House is adequate. The electricity works, which means I have a fan at night. YAY! And I only saw one bug outside the mosquito net. No one was at the reception desk because it was already almost midnight.


When I woke up this morning it was raining like crazy and it has been storming all day. I regret having worn my crocks because they slippery as all get-out. I covered up with a rain jacket and slid my way down to the dining room, which was quite noisy with all the rain teeming down on the roof made of iron sheets. And of course, there are leaks here and there, so I kept having to move my chair.


Breakfast was served by the same lovely young woman who worked there last year: toast, omelet, fresh fruit, African milk tea.


I had arranged for Peter to pick me up at 10am and he was very prompt. After I met with Joan, the registration clerk to sign in. Everyone here is asking about Michael who has been another volunteer here for several years. Michael had been very ill, so couldn't make the trip this time. His wife Carolyn sent along a big suitcase of shoes and clothing for the school, and also the most up to date sponsorship list for us to double check with the names, as this new school year just started on Sunday.


So Peter drove me to the gas station where Ssebunya was waiting for us, and we drove up to the school. The roads are rushing torrents and waterfalls, especially when climbing the hill. You can't really judge how deep the water is in the massive puddles, and every once in a while there is a car that tried to navigate and got marooned in the water.


That first drive into the school yard is always so special, because there is always something new to see. This year--a new paint job on every school building, making them look very nice in their school colors (gold and brown). When it stops raining, I will take a photo of how everything looks. The trees get bigger every year, just like the children get taller.

In this pouring rain, I was able to see first-hand how the water at the school rushes down the hill and across the campus. Brian Ddibya was there to greet me getting out of the car and hold my arm on the slippery ground and steps. Since last year, he is married and has a baby girl, whose middle name is Kay, after one of our volunteers from a few years ago. Kay and Steve were favorites around here, and Brian was especially fond of them and has kept in touch with them throughout the years. I hope to see the baby sometime when I am here.


So then I got to see Uncle David and Waswa who greeted me warmly. The children had a little music program planned, but the rain is preventing any outdoor activity today. It's a national holiday today called "Heroes Day", for the coup that happened back in 1986. I'm not quite clear on the details. I'll have to look it up.


I asked Uncle David if the person who owns the land adjacent to the school ever gave permission for us to build a little retaining wall, and he said he's been trying for two years to make that happen. Then I told him about our expression "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission". We really need that wall and to begin digging the water trenches, now that we have all the wheelbarrows and such. He agreed.


I told David that I brought 150 pounds of shoes and clothes for the children and that I would bring them over when we got a sunny day. He was very pleased. While at the school, I asked David if he still had any of the glasses that Michael had brought to them a couple years ago. He did....and I found a pair that I can use for reading glasses while I'm here this time. So....thanks again, Michael!!!


So then Peter drove Ssebunya and me over to the Namirimbe business center so we could sit down and go over all the things on my "To do" list for this trip. High on the list is to make some contacts for the micro-lending project we would like to start. I have made a couple of phone calls on that already. Also, the sponsorship photos and lists; the work plan for the trench project; visiting the local Rotary Club tomorrow (as their guest of honor). We subsidized Ssebunya's membership in the club so he can possibly get their help with our water situation at the school. He has made such a good impression at the club that they are training him to be on the Board.


We stopped at our favorite Indian market on the way, to see my friends who own the place and to buy some yogurt. The electricity was off, but their cooler was still keeping the dairy products from going bad.


Well, time to get going. People who remember me from other years are giving me big smiles and asking about the school, etc. It's good to be here once again.

Enough for now.
Love from Uganda,

January 31, 2013

Hello Everyone,

The rain has stopped, leaving a scum of mud everywhere....some thick and some thin. Where the water cascaded down the roads and lanes yesterday there is deep mud, getting rutted from vehicles passing through. The kiosks of clothing, furniture, plastic ware, shoes and everything else you can think of that's for sale are now spilling over into the open areas, drying out and getting ready for business as usual.


I had breakfast in the garden with the sun shining this morning under a blue sky. The trees (palms, bananas, avocados, magnolias, hibiscus, etc.) are all fresh from being so thoroughly washed in the rain. I'm getting reacquainted with the local smells: garbage fires, cooking fires, diesel exhaust, latrines, insect spray, etc.


In two days' time we'll all be swatting mosquitoes like mad.


I had planned to leave the guest house at 10am and I noticed that Peter was already there when I took my breakfast. At 9:30 Ssebunya called to find out where I was, and I told him I would pick him up at 10. He said it was already 10:30! Apparently I had set my watch to the wrong time when I landed in Entebbe, so I've been an hour late for everything! Good thing we discovered this in the morning, because tonight I am the guest of honor at the local Rotary Club and I don't want to be late for my presentation


So I immediately left, with bags of shoes and clothes for the teachers, picked up Ssebunya and we drove to the school. So many warm greetings from the children who came to shake my hand, as well as the loyal teachers who have been serving there for many years. All glad to see us arrive.


The first item on he agenda was to distribute the shoes. It turns out that the African men's feet are bigger than I had imagined, so we had quite a session trying to find shoes that fit. The heavy work shoes I brought for Brian fit him perfectly, though, so he and I were both pleased about that. He is now an electrician, but volunteers at the school on weekends, and teaches band. He showed me photos of the band performing at an outside event. They get paid for that, and it helps the school. While I was there, Brian called the band together and they played a couple of tunes, including an upbeat version of "Silent Night". They don't have snare drums, so two of the kids use the empty trumpet cases to beat on with drum sticks.


The women teachers had fun picking out their shoes. Even the nurse Mary found some that fit. They were all very pleased and thanked me over and over. Here is Uganda, it seems easy to be a hero. A bag of used shoes will do the trick. Actually, it prompts me to find even more things to give them. A little goes a long way here!


I want to thank Billie and Ralph from the Ligonier Fellowship for sending the maps of the world. The teachers were so glad to get them, and opened them all up to admire them. We are hoping to get them laminated so they won't get ruined by the dust and humid conditions here.


Uncle David gave me a tour of the campus, to see where we needed to get started on the trench project. We paced out where the wall will be, and walked along the path where the first trench will be dug. It will have to be a very deep trench to keep the water under control at some points.


Then another top priority is the existing trench that goes right past the lower girls' dorm. The buildings are so close together that the girls have to step into the trench to get into the dorm. Not good. Not safe. So we will have to cover that will grating or something right away.


The trench will be built in sections, as we get money for it. It will probably take years, at the rate we are going, but it is very necessary to keep the mortar from washing away on the brick buildings.


I got a few photos of the freshly painted buildings. They look great. What a difference!


David was also saying that he really wishes he could hire at least one more teacher. Apparently there is a need. But right now, the budget won't allow it. He pays the teachers a salary and an additional 70,000 Uganda shillings per month for a single room somewhere. That's a total of about $120 per month for each teacher.


He also shared with me why there was no electricity today. Over the break when no tuitions are coming in, the school got behind in its electric bill. I guess they were behind by about $400. Now he has paid off all but about $90, so as soon as the term is fully under way, he can pay that off and get the electricity turned back on.


He and Ssebunya were also talking about the cost of the water the school must buy. They can collect runoff from the roof for washing clothes and for latrine buckets, but they must purchase drinking and cooking water for about 3000 shillings per cubic meter. Once the trench construction project is completed, we should be able to provide much of our own water with the use of underground storage tanks. That will be the last phase of our project.


So now I'll go back to the guest house to prepare for tonight's presentation to the Rotary Club. Ssebunya is very excited about it. They are also inducting him into the Board tonight, and we plan to video the whole thing. He is very proud, as he should be.


One last thing...I'm having fun with the box of Belgian chocolates I purchased in Brussels. Each candy is coin shaped, and wrapped in gold paper that is stamped to look like a Euro coin. I've been giving them to folks here and they seem to like them a lot.


Enough for today.
Sending love from Uganda,

February 1, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Well last night I got to meet one local chapter of Rotary International in Nateete. They meet in the Ivy's Hotel and there were about 30 people in attendance. Ssebunya was very excited because he is a new member of the group, but he has already made such an impression that they have elected him to the Board as the Special Projects officer. He was inducted last night. The meeting was run like American ones, with the Rotary pledge, etc. They read off names of people who were excused; greeted visitors from other chapters and verified attendance at other chapters from those who had missed their own meeting last time.


I was invited to give a little talk about ARSF, which went well. There were also a few questions, which I was able to answer to their satisfaction. I know they do help with water projects here and there, but it didn't seem to me that the reason for my presentation was to ask them for help. I think our past volunteer Nathan Thomas has been working on the side with Ssebunya to put together a proposal for a water project in the area. We hope the school will benefit somehow.


I also got to meet a young man (and Rotarian) named Abbey Ssejjuuko, who has just graduated from college with a degree in Business Administration. Ssebunya recommended him as the person we might consider to be the coordinator for the micro-lending project we are starting under the direction of the International Unitarian Universalist Women’s Convocation. Abbey seems very interested in taking training and helping us to move forward with the idea, so I am pleased about that.


SPONSORSHIPS--I gave the color coded spreadsheet that Carolyn Glass had prepared, to Ssebunya to follow up. He is to determine which children are returning to school in this new school year and which are not. If a sponsored child is not returning, we will note that and find another child to assign to that sponsor. The first step, however, is to wait until we are sure how many students are at the school this new year. Ssebunya said there was some confusion around the starting date. First the government announced that the first day of school would be Jan 28, but since the 30th was a national holiday, and some people were away, they changed the starting date to Feb. 4. Of course, quite a lot of students are already registered and at the school attending classes. But Ssebunya feels that we should wait at least two weeks before updating the sponsorship report, to make sure everyone is accounted for.


LETTERS--I brought two packets of letters written by American elementary students, which I turned over to Uncle David on Wednesday. He promised me that he will find students who will write response letters so that I can bring them back with me.


CRAFTS- Today is the one day of the week when there is a local craft market. However it is raining, so we're not sure there will be a craft fair.


Yes, today it started raining about 8am. A huge black cloud hangs over the whole mountain and is dumping lots of rain. I ate breakfast in my room because trying to walk about in the pouring rain is not fun. Although, I'm not wearing my crocs today. I'm wearing the pink flip flops from the shower because they do better on the slippery sidewalks. When it rains, the whole hotel complex turns into a watery skating rink. Very dangerous.


We were going to deliver several dozen pairs of children's shoes to the school today but I don't want to schlep them through the rain. Maybe tomorrow.


Note to Sandy: I gave Uncle David the money you sent for the books and he was extremely pleased. I'm sure you will be getting a thank-you note. I asked if I should take him shopping and he said no. Whenever a Mzungu is with you the prices triple. So he's better off shopping by himself. I understand that. The same thing happens at the craft market. I look at everything, make notes on which items I like, and Ssebunya then goes and negotiates the prices while I hide somewhere. Then after he gets a fair price, I come back and make the final selections. That's called teamwork


Our driver Peter is so attentive. Because there was some mud on the floor of his car, he cut new panels of clean cardboard to line the floor under my feet. Too bad the defroster doesn't work. Good thing we have a big cloth rag to keep wiping the insides of the windows so he can see to drive in this steamy weather


Well, enough for now.
With love from Renee in Uganda

February 2, 2013


Hello Everyone,

Happy Groundhog Day!!

Here it is overcast, so the groundhog would have trouble seeing its shadow, I think, but I'm perfectly happy because that keeps things from getting so unbearably hot. YAY.

It did stop raining yesterday around 11am, so we called Peter to pick us up and get into Kampala to the craft market, which is only open on Fridays. Of course, during the rain, most people take shelter, so when it stops, the streets are very crowded and traffic jams are very bad, especially going into town. So yes, we did get stuck several times, which gives beggars and vendors a chance to knock on your window for attention. You can buy anything from your car during a traffic jam: gum, green beans, sunglasses, time cards, dresses, buckets, bananas, etc. etc. etc. It's an opportunity for people to have a captive clientele.


The plus side, though is that I love looking upward to see the hundreds of giant Malibu stork nests in the trees along the roadsides, even in the downtown area. The big momma and daddy storks stand hunched on the edge of their nest caring for eggs or fluffy white babies. I love that. Ssebunya reminded me again that if stork meat were good to eat, there wouldn't be any storks at all in Uganda, but they are almost putrid and people won't eat them.....even flies avoid their carcasses, according to Ssebunya.


We arrived at the craft market. I wore my shower flip flops to avoid slipping on the slick mud, but there the mud was oozy and sticky, so my feet became coated with the goo very quickly. There are a few kiosks near the back of the field where permanent vendors are located, so their wares were more protected from the rain, even though many had leaky roofs and puddles to mop up.


For the rest, they had spread their plastic tarps out across the wet grassy area, with the muddy footpaths in between. Some have overhead plastic covers but most do not. I had made a list for Ssebunya, so when we got to the entrance gate we parted ways so people wouldn't see him with the Mzungu. Prices are triple for tourists, but Ssebunya can get a fair market price--the price they really expect. I took the clockwise route around the market, with phone in hand so I could keep track of where my buying partner was. When my phone rang the first time, he asked me to meet him at the gate where he was holding about 15 colorful woven bowls for my approval.


I also told him about some other items I had seen for him to check out, then I took the bowls and went to wait in the car with Peter. I handed over the craft buying budget to Ssebunya so he could see how much he could do with it. Every time he had made another bulk purchase he returned to the car wearing a big smile. He really knows how to pick things! And he's so thorough. Every shilling and item was counted and double counted so we had just what we wanted. Ssebunya dutifully writes every detail about every little thing down in a notebook. On one trip back to the car he noticed he was missing his notebook so he went back in a panic to find it where it had fallen on the muddy ground.

While waiting in the car with Peter, I folded some of the cloth items to keep them from getting wrinkled, and had a nice chat with him. It turns out he has three children, a girl 14, a girl 10 and a boy 6. They all go to school and are doing well. He really lit up when talking about his family. Peter is such a lovely fellow; so helpful and patient. He's the introvert; Ssebunya is a extravert. I love how easily they both laugh. They make things so much fun. And I always feel perfectly safe with these two strapping guys watching out for me.


After all our shopping was done we plodded through Friday rush hour traffic to get back to the hotel. I mentioned to Peter and Ssebunya that I had read an article about the top ten cities for traffic jams, and guess what....Kampala was high on the list. They laughed at that and agreed it must be true!


The men helped me to unload all the bags from the car into my room, then I placed my dinner order with Prosay. My diet is pretty much a lot of carbs lately, with fries, chapatti, beer (when they have some that's cold). But last night I decided to try their mushroom soup. What a great choice. From now on, it's soup for me!


I've been noticing a little cat on the hotel grounds lately. She doesn't seem starving or frantic for food. She doesn't beg from the tables, but she does love attention. She comes by to stroke my leg and now that I've started petting her, she leans in even more and puts her rear end in the air for a nice back scratch. Then she rolls over and pulls my hand down onto her tummy and neck as she leans her head back into the grass. Her tummy seems big and solid. I don't know much about it, but it seems to me she might have some kittens in there. The cat is mostly black with bright patches of orange, a white tummy and neck and paws.


I won't be making a trip to the school today, as David has gone with the children who play in the band on a fundraising gig. I'm not sure where they are playing, but Brian had gotten the band members special T shirts and shorts as their uniform so they look more organized. Thanks again to those back in he States who helped to supply the instruments. If anyone is interested in this venture, the kids could use some more instruments; perhaps a couple of snare drums and couple more horns.


Sunday (tomorrow) I'll be going to the school to help greet the parents of arriving students, as the national/official first day of school is Monday. David says they love seeing the Mzungu there to greet them. It makes them feel as if the school is really making progress, and that's good


So I'll be spending some time just lazing around the compound. I wish my UUCOV bird watching friends were here to help me identify some of the birds. There is such a variety; big ones, little ones. And they make such interesting sounds. Some sound like the common crow, some like grackles, some almost sound like monkeys chattering and some make almost human sounds. Of course, I do recognize the roosters that live all around the neighborhood, welcoming each day with their crowing alarm.


Today is the day that Ssebunya is getting trained as a Board member for his Rotary Club leadership position. He was very excited about it. He has attended many types of training over the years; much of it for NGOs working in the areas of water treatment and HIV.


I have been away from news lately, but yesterday Ssebunya told me there were more shootings in the States. While we were stuck in traffic yesterday, he and Peter were asking me why so many people have guns in my country and why so many people take out their anger with guns. I said I don't know. I simply don't know. Maybe one of you will have a better answer that I can use over here


Enough for now.

Sending Love from Uganda,

February 4, 2013

Hello Everyone,

A long update today because yesterday, Sunday, the business center was closed and they had turned their wireless router off too, so I couldn't even try using my I Pad.

There was some commotion on the road outside the hotel. Sounded like someone screaming. I went down by the hedge and asked someone what happened. Apparently someone robbed a woman and the thief was caught running through the street. In such cases, the onlookers usually chase after the crook, pull down his pants and underpants and beat him with sticks. That seems to do the job!


Also, the cat is indeed, preggers. Apparently she had a litter in October, but chose to deliver the kittens under the grate of a storm drain and the babies didn't survive. Now she is trying to beg her way into someone's room, so we have to be careful about leaving our door open. She's looking for a soft place to deliver. As of this morning, she is still waddling around and asking for attention.


There's a woman named Marian staying at the Manhattan who is originally from the UK but has lived in rural Uganda for the past 8 years or so, working for a charity that supplies gravity-based water systems to public schools (so our school doesn't qualify!). But she did share some ideas with me, not that we are in a position to follow up at this time.


I first met the woman sitting on the stoop behind the rooms block, having her toenails painted by the laundress. Beside her was another guest getting her hair braided by a young man beautician. I didn't know we had a spa at the hotel!!


Eventually, of course, my time spent talking with Marian eventually led to politics and the long presidency of Mouseveni (I've been pronouncing it wrong. It should be mu-SEV-ini). Anyway, he's been in power for 28 years and he has all the power and money. The Buganda tribe is the biggest, but he is from another tribe in the east of Uganda. When he got elected, he started paying the army to protect him, and over the years wins all the elections by either having his opponent jailed for some trumped up claim, or by falsifying the elections. The UN observers sit at the tables and watch people dutifully putting their ballots into the boxes, but what they don't know is that the ballots were already marked for Mouseveni before they got them, and they were paid to come to the polls to cast the ballot. Also, the boxes then go onto the trucks where there are other boxes stashed with Mouseveni ballots, so even if by chance a box shows someone else winning, they can just switch boxes enroute to headquarters.


So it looks like he will be in office for a very long time, and of course, the folks in the Buganda tribe are not very happy about that.


Last evening while sitting in the garden, a man approached me who works for a ocean-vessel shipping company. He was giving me the complete list of what gets taxed and what does not (customs, etc.) for incoming goods. He wants to sell his services, but I would need an enormous amount of goods and money in order to do business with him. But I appreciated getting the list


On my way back from the school the other day I had Peter stop at the Indian store to get some yogurt and fruit, and Peter wanted a Fanta orange drink. In such stores, they don't let you take the glass bottles away, but make you drink up and leave the bottle for them to get credit for it from the company. Since the owners know me, they let me take the bottle away because I PROMISED to bring it back the next time. So when Peter showed up this morning, I asked if he still the Fanta bottle, and thankfully he did. So my friend at the Indian store was very pleased.


Note to Steve and Kay: do you remember the beginnings of a building that was being constructed beside the Comprehensive Hotel? Every year we watch it get higher, with wooden scaffolding, poles and wet cement. You would not believe your eyes this year, as the building is now completed, and it is a several story-high shopping center with modern stores and restaurants. Wow.

I took a photo to show you at some later date.


And there are updates at the school, too. For example, the "media centre" building that Steve helped to build is now a classroom and storage room. The office is now back to its original location at the end of the boys' dorm. Beside the office is a small classroom for the kindergarten class. The clinic has been reconfigured to become a classroom, with the infirmary around behind it. The cupboard for the nurse's supplies are now kept in the office. The computer room is now an extension of the girls' dorm, and because they don't have bunk beds in there yet, there are about 20 girls sleeping with their foam mattresses on the floor.


So Uncle David is asking for funds to get more triple bunk beds to get those girls off the floor. For about $500 we can purchase all the beds they need, in case anyone is interested in helping to supply them. :-)


They have a new boys' latrine area which is fine, except that you can see right into the trough where the boys "go". So today I gave Uncle David money to have a carpenter build a wooden door for the boys' latrine, and another for the girls' latrine.


The cook (Steven) invited me to come and look where he works. The cooking area is behind the former media centre building, and gets a lot of water running through it during heavy rains. It soaks the firewood and makes it almost impossible to build a fire for cooking the posho and porridge. Also, Steven and his assistant George were both wearing raggedy flip-flops on their feet. He said if he had gum boots he could work better. So I called Brian on my cell phone to ask if he could take the men shopping for gum boots.

Brian came right away on a boda, but he was wearing his work jumpsuit, wearing his work hardhat and had work tools in his pocket. He was in the middle of an electrical job, but he came right away. He said he would take the men tomorrow when he has some time. I'm so pleased that Brian has a good job after getting his electrician license. There is only one electric company in Uganda, so they can charge high rates. When people can't pay, they send electricians out to cut off their power. This usually happens between January and March every year. Then, when people pay their bill, they must hire their own electrician to reconnect the power, and this is where Brian gets a lot of business. I had sent him some used climbing cranes (spikes) to allow him to climb trees and poles, so he scurries up and reconnects the wires. People sometimes say he looks too young to be an electrician, but he is really good at what he does and people tell other people about him, so apparently he gets some good jobs.


He was telling me that he has a Skype account so he can talk once in a while to our volunteer friend Nathan Thomas (the one who rebuilt and sent computers to the school, and then came to oversee the project one summer). I thought it might be fun, since I also just opened a Skype account myself, if we could have some of the children from school do some Skype conversations at a nearby internet cafe. We used to have live chats with a school in Florida, but it almost never worked and was very frustrating, because the only program the school was allowed to use was Safari Live, which just wasn't a good match for the bandwidth and computer infrastructure in Uganda. So we'll see what we can set up with Skype.


Yesterday, Sunday, I spent a lot of time just being at the school greeting families as they came to register their children. Almost all of them thanked me profusely for all the improvements that they see every year when they come. It was fun also to see how the children use their Sunday time at school. Of course, these are the boarding students. Some were playing jump rope with real ropes or with the long creeping crab grass "vines". Some were playing with balls made of wadded up plastic grocery bags (their sports equipment-- soccer balls, etc.--have finally bit the dust.....literally!!!)


Some of the children getting registered come from families that have a little more money, and can provide extras, such as bags of rice that they can ask the cook to prepare; boxes of cookies that are stored for them in the school office; coins to purchase baked goods that are brought to the school at lunch time by a worker at a nearby bakery.

Each of the boarding students must have a footlocker with certain things that are inventoried, such as toilet paper rolls, mosquito net, composition books, pens, etc. The children who can't afford such things sometimes borrow from the ones that can.


Ssebunya was with me at the school on Sunday and we sat down with Uncle David to make a priority TO DO list and also a wish list. A covering for the drainage trench that passes by the girls' dorm doorway is at the top of the list, along with the first water-diversion trench. On the wish list are things like the bunk beds, although today David asked that they be moved to the top of the list. Also on the wish list: snare drums, cymbals for the marching band, and of course, more roof gutters and storage tanks.


Water continues to be a major problem. The big tank that collects roof water is doing the job, but it isn't nearly enough. We need gutters on front and back of every roof emptying into more storage tanks. There are indeed two water pipes coming into the school yard; one is from a water provider and one is from a nearby neighbor. When the first one dries up, they must buy from the neighbor. Waswa showed me the water bill that was delivered today: 289,000 Uganda shillings for 62 units of water. This amounts to about $115 for about 100K liters of water.


Waswa said it was trying to keep up with the water bill that got them so far behind with the electric bill, because to them, water is critically important; much more important than electricity. That's why the computer room got turned into extra dorm space and the computers are stored in the office store room.


I got to school early this morning so as to greet more parents bringing their children. I sat right outside, in front of the office saying good morning and welcome to everyone. They all wanted to shake my hand and thank everyone back home for all their support. It also happened to be a day when the nurse came to call, so I got to see her inaction, too. Mary, the nurse is such a sweet person. She peeks in on all the classes and dorms and children who need her advice come to her. Today there was a boy with a big swollen area on his hand. It looked like a cyst or something, and apparently she was going to have to lance it and then dress it. We are lucky to have Mary as our part time nurse and thanks again so much to the ones who are sponsoring her salary for the next year (you know who you are!) :-)


One leftover issue regarding health at the school is the HIV testing and treatment that we initiated two years back. One of our previous Liaison Officers had developed an intake form that wasn't approved by Dr. Mina (the coordinator of the testing and treatment program) but apparently she used it anyway, which was rejected by the parents because of confidentiality issues. So now that Ssebunya is on the job, and his good friend is Dr. Mina, we will start to see progress again in this area.


We have also identified a possible coordinator for the micro-lending program that the International Conv. of UU Women would like to sponsor at the school. There will be another meeting this afternoon to try to work out the details. But we are very hopeful that we will soon see something moving forward with the project.


Enough for today. Sorry to be so long winded!

Sending Love from Uganda.

February 5, 2013


Hello Everyone,

Here at the Namirimbi "Business Centre" the electricity alarm went off meaning that they had only a few moments to run outside and turn on the generator, or else all the machines would shut down. At least they have a warning here. In most places, it just shuts down unexpectedly, and most often right in the middle of a very long email!

Last evening I had a meeting with Abbey Ssejjuuko, the young man we are asking to be the microfinance trainer/coordinator, and Ssebunya. Abbey brought along documentation of his education, etc. and he seems eager to get started. We went over all the information we have so far from the International Convocation of UU Women and from the local Ugandan agency that does online training, and we still have to meet with the local training contact because we are left with many questions that couldn't be answered online. We also made sure Abbey has a current email address so we can keep in close contact with him.


Update on the cat: someone in the neighborhood took a liking to her, so she was put into a box and carried away to a home that will care for her and her babies. I guess that's the best possible outcome.


This morning we passed by a dead goat on the road. Some vehicle had hit it. There are so many goats (and cows) along the sides of the roads, I'm amazed we don't see more dead goats here and there.


This morning Ssebunya and I arrived at the school around 10am and began working out details concerning where the excavated soil will go from the water trench project. There will be lots of dirt, which ordinarily would be a problem to dispose of, but here on the hill we are looking forward to using the soil to level off the area in front of the girls' dorm. There is already a wall at the bottom end, but we think if we heighten it by two or three stones, that will be enough to make a flat area.


The trees that were little scrawny things a few years ago are now big and provide shade in the school yard, and end posts for the many clotheslines. One of the trees is really big and is heavy with big purple cones of blossoms.


Brian also arrived about the same time we did, bringing the new gum boots for the cooks Steven and George. They were extremely pleased. The carpenter was also due to arrive soon to begin building the privacy doors for the boys' and girls' latrines. Ssebunya was very glad to hear about the new doors, as one of his primary interests is the health and safety of children.


The nurse was also at the school doing her rounds. I told her that there is a family in Pittsburgh that is providing her salary for the next year, and she wanted me to be sure to convey her thanks. At the same time, I also thanked her for the great work she is doing at the school. She presented us with a list of the medicines that she needs to replenish her supplies, and Ssebunya was relieved that is seemed fairly short. So we may be able to purchase everything on the list while I'm here. Ssebunya is working this afternoon to round up the supplies, purchase a new water tap for the water tank and do some other errands.


While we were going from here to there Ssebunya and I had a little discussion about circumcision in Uganda. There is both male and female "mutilation", which (at least in the case of females) is now against the law, but tribal customs are so strong that the people....including the girls....insist on doing them anyway! Ssebunya said that there was even a Minister of Parliament who belonged to a tribe that circumcises, who was forcibly taken away to circumcise against his will. Ssebunya and I agreed that the key to all of this is education!


Education will teach children about things like that, plus other important issues such as the treatment of gays and albinos. (Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck if you bury them by your home or business. Albino people, especially children, must be heavily guarded.) The bill to make homosexuality a capital crime has passed through Parliament and is waiting for President Mouseveni to sign it, but there is a lot of pressure from other countries to table it.


Well, now I have to work on a letter of agreement to present to Abbey for his upcoming work on the microfinance project.


Enough for today.

Sending Love from Uganda,

February 6-7, 2013


Hello Everyone,

Things have been hectic here, with the countdown of my time remaining here in Uganda! Yesterday Ssebunya and I had some running around to do before going up to the school. When we arrived we had some nice surprises. First, I felt sure that somehow we would raise enough money to make some of the triple bunk beds that girls needed in the dorm extension. In fact, if anyone feels moved to make a contribution to the cost of the beds, we will gladly accept it. I asked Ssebunya to take some money from the construction funds to pay for the beds. We will just have a slower start on the first water diversion trench.


Yesterday I made the decision that I couldn't bear to see little girls sleeping on the cement floor with nothing but a thin piece of foam in between, so I told Uncle David to go ahead and call the welders to the school to make at least 7 sets of beds to start. We can figure out how to pay for these and the other 7 sets later (at least this meets the immediate need.) David doesn't like to turn children away, so we end up with more kids than we have beds sometimes.


So today when we arrived there were two men standing in the grassy area by the girls' dorm, surrounded by long thick and thin strips of metal, measuring and hand cutting pieces to weld together to make the beds. This is actually cheaper than having the beds made elsewhere and then having to pay for a truck or two to deliver them.


As soon as I sat down to watch, I had girls and matrons coming over to thank me. In Uganda, it is very touching the way they thank you. They grab your hand in both of theirs, and then literally fall to their knees and almost kiss your feet as they verbalize their thanks. Wow. Very humbling.


We had also brought a new water tap for the one storage tank we are now using. The tap the children use is attached to the access pipe coming directly out of the bottom of the tank. Then there is a plastic pipe that passes through a concrete block that delivers the water into buckets and bowls. Ssebunya said that this is not good, because when the children constantly work the tap, it gets weaker and will give out some time. Then we will have problem because the tap is welded into the tank and will be very difficult to replace. So he suggested we put a second tap on at the end of the pipe that will be easy to replace.


Unfortunately, whoever installed the pipe embedded it into the cement, and the plastic pipe has no threads to attach another pipe or even another connector. So in order to attach the new tap, a plumber will have to come, break the cement, remove the plastic pipe and install another pipe capable of connecting the new tap to it and repour the cement. I don't know why someone didn't think of that before. In fact, the tap they are currently using is already a bit wobbly and has a tiny leak around the handle. So the sooner we fix this, the better.


Meanwhile, Brian presented me with the packets of completed letters written in response to the two American classes that had sent letters over with me. There are lot of letters there, so I'm sure the American students will be very pleased.


More children are still arriving with their parents, so our sponsors will have to wait a bit longer for the update on which students have returned and which ones have not. Ssebunya has been so busy gadding about with me, that he hasn't had any time yet either.


After spending time at the school, Ssebunya and I had a couple of hours back at the guest house to meet and do some briefing. It ended up with a language lesson. I had copied off some words and phrases in Luganda (the local language) with the translations. I read each line and Ssebunya would then tell me what I had said. There were two or three of the translations that were incorrect, so I had a nice lesson. We also added some more phrases, such as "speak slowly", or "Please speak English".


Back in my grad school days my Master's thesis in Linguistics was to take a little known language (in that case Tagalog), and using only elicited phrases spoken to me in that language, I had to determine the grammatical system of the language, including verb cases, etc. This brought back all the skills required to do that, only on a much smaller scale. Ssebunya said I spoke his language with an American accent, of course.


Last evening we went with our ex-pat English friend Marian and driver Peter down to the Tahunde Safari Lodge restaurant for a nice farewell dinner, since tonight things will be a bit rushed. It was really lovely. Such huge plates of food, all grilled outside and delivered by well-trained waiters--Ugandan style. Yummy.


Today we made great progress of the microfinance project. Abbey, Ssebunya and I went into Kampala to meet with the local official who oversees registration for the training of trainers course, which is online. We got a lot of questions answered about how long the course will last, what equipment in needed, etc. We know that the International Convocation of UU Women will be purchasing a computer that will be dedicated to the training and subsequently to the development of the project that will be established in Mutundwe, under the auspices of the school, using their facilities for meetings, etc.


After that meeting, Abbey and I emailed the office in Japan where the course content is developed , so we feel we are getting closer to actually seeing something happening. It is very exciting.


On our way back to Nateete, Peter's car ran out of gas on a hill. Empty! So we sat there on the roadside, emergency lights flashing, while Peter rode a boda to the nearest station to get a litre of petrol to get us started again. Of course, the gas line had been pumped dry, so the car wouldn't start until Abbey and Ssebunya pushed us down the hill backwards to a turnaround where the car could level out and allow gas to refill the line. I'm glad this happened before our trip to the airport later on!


So now I will be on my way to the school for the last time this trip. The girls will have had their first night on the new beds. The children are planning a farewell assembly for me. I'll take photos!


Looks like it's going to rain, too.....so I'd better get going.


Thanks for reading, everyone!

Until next time,

Sending Love from Uganda,

February 8, 2013

Hello Everyone,

I thought you'd like to know that I just arrived home and I am all safe and sound. Also, I wanted to just tell you about my last afternoon in Uganda after yesterday's email.
After finishing up some correspondence, documents, etc. that had to be done, I called Peter to pick up me, Abbey and Ssebunya from the Namarimbi Business Centre. But then, of course, it started raining really hard. I mean, REALLY HARD!!! In fact, there was thunder and lightning and about 30 minutes of very large hailstones crashing down.

We couldn't go anywhere, We saw Peter's car come up the hill, but we couldn't get down to where he was. After awhile he ran in through the rain to see where we were, and then all four of us were stuck inside waiting for the weather to clear. As we watched hail piling up in the grass, Ssebunya said, "You see, we have winter here, too"! (But it was still very hot and humid.)


Meanwhile, I had wanted to print out a document but the attendant Richard said the printer was out of toner. When I told him I really needed it right away, he copied the document onto a memory stick, found an old umbrella and walked through the hail storm down the hill to another "internet cafe". The rest of us just waited under cover. We couldn't go to the school anyway, because we didn't want the children to try to do a program in the storm.


While we waited, I asked Ssebunya to tell me about his family. It turns out that he was once married and has a daughter in college, studying tourism and hotel management. His father had had many wives and each wife had many children, so Ssebunya has lots of full brothers and sisters, along with lots of half siblings and step siblings, too. When they have big family gatherings, they have a bizillion people!


In fact, on Wednesday night when Marion and I took Ssebunya and Peter to dinner, Ssebunya wanted us to stop on the way to pop in and meet his elderly mother and one of his sisters who lived nearby. Mother is 81. Their two room apartment was off a very dark alley-way so we had to walk slowly because there were no lights. Ssebunya knocked on the door and his sister answered. She invited us in and Marion and I both did the traditional Ugandan greeting: hug, hug, hug, with the head first on one side, then the opposite, and then back to the first side, with a handshake that includes a regular grip, then a thumb grip, then back to regular. Mother seemed so very proud of Ssebunya! We didn't stay long because Peter didn't really have much of a place to park outside, so we explained that we had to go. Mother and sister were very pleased that we had stopped to meet them, and Ssebunya was happy to introduce his Mzungu friends to them.


So by the time Richard got back to the business centre, the hail had stopped and the rain was slowing down, so we called the school to let Uncle David know we were trying to come, but the rain had held us back. Peter then said he thought it could be raining where we were, but not over at the school. So when it slowed down more, we scampered down the sidewalk and into the car. I had taken my shoes and socks off because my plastic clogs were so slippery on the wet concrete that it was actually dangerous for me to try to wear them.


But you know what? Peter was right! By the time we made our way over to the school, amazingly, the rain had indeed stopped and the children were so happy to see us, because they knew we were there that one more time before returning home.

Soon Uncle Sam rang the school bell and out scrambled students from every door in every block--classrooms, dorms, etc. They were all wearing whatever uniform components they had, (some with the "new" used shoes I had brought" and they were all wearing big smiles. It was obvious that they had something very special planned.

Uncle David had the children line up according to grade and then they started singing their special songs, prepared just for us. We stood on the incline above the parking area and the children all lined up according to grade. The women teachers were very animated as they led the singing and the children were just so much fun to watch as they linked arms and swayed this way and that. They sang two or three songs, and then Uncle David talked in Lugandan. I could tell that he was reminding the children how things once were: toppling old wooden classroom block and now they had the John F. Long, S.J. Classroom block all made of solid bricks and newly painted in the school colors; where there used to be a very muddy hillside, now a gravel parking area; where the old icky latrines were, now new ones; where there were students who had medical conditions with no one to look after them, now a nurse. Every time he mentioned something like this, the children and teachers burst into applause.


Then he called forward one of the older students with very good English language skills to read a long letter of thanks for everything our contributors, volunteers and sponsors have given and provided over the years. It was nicely done. Then David introduced Ssebunya, who talked a bit, and then Ssebunya introduced me, to tell the children how much we think about them in between visits, and how much we want only the best for their school. Then we all said our fond farewells. I turned over all the clothes I had been wearing during my visit, to the women teachers who all hugged me in thanks.


Then the children sang a marching song as they headed back to class, and we all threw kisses at each other along the way. It was time to then do my individual good-byes to David, Brian, Som, Waswa, Twaha, Eva, Margaret, Grace, etc. as we made our way back to the car.


I hope that next year there will be other volunteers going with me, too. I have one or two who have already mentioned this to me. If anyone else is interested, please do let me know. Once you go to Uganda, your life will never be the same.


OK, so now this is really the last email regarding this year's trip. It was nicely capped off by happily discovering the same women that I met coming into Entebbe for her mission trip, sharing the same flights to Brussels and IAD (Dulles) on the way back, so we had a lot of stories to tell one another about our different journeys.


Blessing to All of You and thanks for the words of encouragement.
Love, Renee


Volunteers' Blog: Michael Glass (2012)


Saturday, 28January

Greetings from Uganda. I trust all is well in the U.S. It is warm and bright in the bustling metropolis of Namirimbe, Uganda, just 10 miles or so outside of the capital city of Kampala. As we came in from the airport on Wednesday evening, I was surprised by how familiar I am with this country, surprised by my lack of surprise by what I now experience here. And it is an experience. It is impossible to just see, hear, or smell this country. The senses are bombarded and sometimes shocked with the culture and the strange juxtaposition of an ancient yet developing land, with proud, hardworking people living in shanty towns just a stone's throw away from the towering Sheraton Hotel and the country's Parliamentary palace.

I got to my room at the Manhattan Guest House about midnight. The Manhattan Guest House is a welcome step-up from where we have previously stayed. As compared to Motel 6, the Manhattan Guest House is probably Motel 3.5, but it has electricity, usually, and a real bathroom with a real shower and running, hot water... most of the time. Renee and I reconned on Thursday, met with Ssebunya and discussed his becoming our new liaison since Evelyn is now studying at the University of Pittsburgh, and we spent the rest of the day exploring Namirimbe since this area is new to us. This is sort of a Kampala suburb with some small vocational schools and several NGOs in the neighborhood, scattered among the really poor residential areas. The streets are typical of the rest of the country outside of Kampala. The main street is paved and everything else is dirt. There are no sidewalks so walking through the neighborhood is more like a game of dodge-car. Good luck. Our rooming house sits on a small hill so there is a decent view of a neighboring hillside. There is a lush grassy lawn in the front of the complex, about the size of a basketball court, surrounded by large, swaying palm trees, pau pau trees, and one huge tree flush with jack-fruit. So far, they haven't tried to serve us jack-fruit for breakfast, thank God. There is a small watermelon patch behind the kitchen and the fruit here is bright, ripe, and sweet. The pineapple we get for breakfast each morning just melts in your mouth and makes it really difficult to buy a can of Dole anything anymore. Down the road and around the bend sits a huge church complex properly fenced in and adorned with a huge, wrought iron locked gate because, you know, it's a church. Across the street from it and, again, properly perched on the highest piece of ground is the bishop's house which looks more like the governor's mansion. Very western architecture makes this palatial dwelling stand out from its community's local thatch and mud dwellings. As Renee and I walked pass I noticed a dead cat in the gutter and I was about to comment that I hadn't seen any cats in the country. But, oh no, it was a rat. At least 2 feet long from nose to tail and scary looking, even dead. It was even more scary because I realized that he has some relatives somewhere nearby.

On Friday we ventured into Kampala to the craft market, to take care of some banking business and to visit our attorney. The sheer magnitude of commerce going on in Kampala always amazes me. Friday was a smoggy, overcast day, so the hustle and bustle of people coming and going, the bumper-to-bumper crawling pace of 9am traffic, and the gazillion boda-bodas daringly weaving through the cars, mini-vans and SUVs was accompanied by this shimmering fog of incessant, swirling red dust that permeated everything, wafting through the air creating a great background for a Hitchcock movie. I half-expected to see Jimmy Stewart step in front of our car and catch a dying man. If this was almost any major U.S. city, you would expect blaring car horns and flaring tempers but, here, everything just moves along because this is just the way it is. No one is upset, no one is trying to get to an appointment on time and angry at the 12 boda-bodas that just cut in front of them. Everyone is just chllin' and moving along.

The craft market moved from its former 7th Street location to a new place on Nsambia Road, just minutes from downtown Kampala. This is a better location because we don't have to fight as much traffic getting here from Namirimbe. All the same vendors are here and some with whom we have become friendly stepped out to greet us. Everyone welcomes us as we walk pass their spots, hoping to get our attention and some of our money. There is so much stuff here, arts and crafts, handmade jewelry, woven baskets, carved figures and animals, Ugandan dresses and cloth that it is absolutely overwhelming. The item that is probably most ubiquitous is the paper necklace. It is a true work of craftsmanship and art to take these tiny strips of scrap paper and produce such a hearty, colorful and attractive necklace. Young women and old sit on bright drop-cloths and meticulously string these beads and lay them out for inspection, but there are so many women selling these necklaces, you are torn buying from one and not some of the others while they are all trying to get your attention. Many of the women making these necklaces sit in the same area, their booths side-by-side. The beauty of these pieces keep your eyes darting from one to the other and, of course me being me, I have no idea which ones to buy, so I try to find the cutest oldest woman to support. Because I know my wife would want that.

We completed our business in Kampala and got back to the Manhattan (I like to call it that because it sounds like the Ritz-Carlton, doesn't it?) and had dinner on the lawn: white rice, the Ugandan version of stir-fry vegetables and chapati... delicious. The evenings are usually as cool as the afternoons are hot, and sitting on this hillside helps bring a satisfying end to what can be a trying day.

Today we made our first visit to the school. I was pleasantly surprised by the progress made there, which I will tell you more about later. We presented Uncle David with a gift, a shirt and tie, which he loved. The first day of enrollment is Monday, so Renee and I will be there to greet parents and students and begin a thorough assessment so that we can amend/adjust our strategic plan. It's exciting to be here again and I am looking forward to what the next week will bring. Ssebunya, Uncle David, and everyone at the school send their love to Evelyn. All said, congratulations and do well!

Saturday, 4 February

Greetings from Uganda! Renee and I have had a busy week. My apologies for not being more in touch. We were able to get to the internet cafe twice, but on one occasion there was no power, and on the second trip, there was only one functional computer, so Renee used it and I went back to our rooming house.

Excellent progress has been made at the school since our last trip. The new classroom block is finished, plastered and has a coat of paint. All the teachers and staff are excited about how the school looks, saying that they are now very proud to say that they work here. The wooden slat classroom buildings were something of an embarrassment to the teachers and, I am certain, were not a selling point when trying to recruit new teachers to the school. There are now cement steps and a walkway connecting each of the classrooms, all of which have metal doors and windows. Real windows. With glass. Not just a hole cut into the wooden wall like our lovely old classrooms. All of the classrooms have ceilings and freshly painted walls and black boards. And, the pièce de résistance... floors! No, not simply the dirt from the hillside, but real, cement floors. It is a lovely thing. So, to all of you who have faithfully supported this project over the years... thank you!

Of course, the crowning glory of The New ABC Divine Foundation Day and Boarding School (a mouthful) is the bright, energetic, inquisitive and wondrous faces of the students, which here are referred to, not as students, but only as pupils. It is sheer joy to observe the zest and commitment with which these children embrace education. There is a deep, pervasive understanding of the importance of education and these children, from kindergarten to 7th grade of our school as well as children in the country overall, approach their studies as a people on a mission. They know that education is the key to everything, and they have big dreams of professions and contributing to society and their country. I watch these children with a great sense of wonder, admiration, and a little regret that education in America is not so fervently desired by everyone. Being here continually drives home the point that we in America are so tremendously blessed and how we take so much for granted. Nothing is regarded lightly, here.

While the school and the construction have progressed nicely, we have some new challenges. The hillside above the school has been divided and sold in chunks to people who are quite wealthy. Some of these homes that are going up rival anything built in the most affluent neighborhoods of any American city, but even the wealthy, here, have problems with contractors, supplies and suppliers, and probably cash flow as well. So some of these homes were started more than a year ago, but are still in early phases of construction, and some were started only months ago.

There are five separate developments above the school, and some are probably 3-5 year projects. Inasmuch as there is no community planning, no development authority, and no infrastructure in these remote, little villages, the new owners simply grade the hillside to have access to their properties which has resulted in mass erosion and water runoff that is saturating our property. Last fall, the rainy season, the water ran down the hill with such force that it cut deep gullies in the land and water poured over a small boundary wall and poured into the girls’ dormitory and into the computer room.

 Fortunately, at this point in time, the computer room is a room without functional computers, so there was no equipment or monetary loss but a huge mess to clean in both areas. Many of the new home owners are wealthy, absentee owners and are not available for us to talk with about a shared solution, so we are stuck to fend for ourselves. The spring rainy season will be upon us in a few weeks, so we have to immediately begin construction of a diversion/retaining wall as well as trenches to dissipate and redirect the water, which means that we have to initiate conversation with our neighbors and hope they will agree to the solution and help pay for it. Since it has been so dry here, we can only assume that when the rain comes, it will come in buckets.

Our other water challenge is that the clean water source we have been using is no longer pumping, so the teachers have to take a large group of students into the village, buy water, and then carry it back up the hill so that we have drinking and cooking water. Every day. So we have water problems. Too much water and no water. One of the blessings of providence is that we met a couple from India who were staying at our rooming house, and the woman is an architect. So we imposed upon her to come to the school and make an assessment of the entire situation. She observed, walked the property, and then used her laptop to draw a sketch of solutions. This is where we got the plans for the retaining wall and trenches. She also designed a series of ponds that can capture some of the runoff from the hill, drain downward through a series of inexpensive, natural filtering systems and then be collected in a tank. While this is not potable water, it will be fine for cleaning, washing and other uses, and can certainly be boiled for still more uses. This may be a 2-year project, but it gives us hope and is now part of a long-term strategic plan for the school. I am excited about the possibilities and very hopeful.

Renee and I, along with our architect friend, Jolly, decided to take a day off and, on Wednesday, we took a day trip to Lake Mburo National Park. The Park is about a 3-hour drive from Mengo, where we are staying, and took us through several small villages and along a major Ugandan highway. About 1-hour into the trip, we passed a point on the actual equator so I have a nice photo of us standing on both sides of the equator. I imagine that there are not many people who can say that they have stood in both hemispheres at the same time, at least, probably not many in Pittsburgh. The travel through the park was a self-directed drive through this huge natural reserve, and we saw many wild animals just a few feet from the car. We have some great photographs of things that can only be seen here. After our drive, we took a boat ride on Lake Mburo and saw many hippos, crocodiles, and exotic birds. We saw a huge herd/family/school/group? of hippos sunning themselves and what I can only assume was frolicking on the shore. These things are massive, and they just appear unannounced around the boat after being submerged for several minutes and swimming under water, sticking up their huge heads and exhaling great blasts of air. They were very impressive.

At one point, we saw a huge crocodile hiding along the shore under some brush. The guide, who also piloted our boat, tried to get closer so that we could get good photos. I assured him that we were absolutely close enough, but he guided the boat, which was way too small, as close to the shore line as possible, at which time the crocodile decided to come into the water directly at us. Naturally, as a former Marine, I felt duty-bound to protect the women-folk, so I didn't get a good photo, but I successfully prevented anyone from getting eaten, so, mission accomplished. I am certain that I have never been that close to something that large and that naturally dangerous before, without being separated by very thick glass, so I have been forced to re-think that whole Johnny Weismuller wrestling the crocodile thing. I am really skeptical about that now. We also saw a couple of baby crocodiles, about 2 feet long, sunning themselves on some logs, so even though I did not get a good photo of the daddy croc, I was quite comfortable taking some good shots of his children. Except for the whole nearly-being-crocodile dinner thing, we had a great time and ate lunch at the park, tilapia, caught right there in the lake. So delicious.

Well, it is 5:45pm, Saturday, and I haven't eaten since breakfast, so I'm going to head back to the Ritz-Carlton and hope there is electricity and hot water. And pineapple. You just have to taste this pineapple.


Monday 6 February

Greetings all,
Yesterday evening was cool. After blazing hot afternoons, it gets to a balmy 70-75 degrees in the evening and we usually have dinner on the lawn. The sun sets quickly here. I suppose as a result of this location on the equator, there is about an even 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness each day, and you can set your watch by the sunrise. Between 7 and 7:30pm, darkness simply envelops the countryside and the only real light is reflected from the moon. The headlights and tail lights of the cars traveling the long north road dart in and out of the looming, shadowy silhouette of the huge palm tree at the center of the property. A small candle is placed on the table for us, but the force of the evening breeze will not allow it to stay lit. Our round, white dinner table, which is weather-beaten and worn, is lit by occasional moonbeams breaking the rolling, westward-moving cloud cover. Without the moon, the darkness is almost palpable in a place where street lights are rare and the dirt, dust, and smog of the day linger well beyond sunset.

There is a paved, winding driveway at the north edge of the complex, and an 8' red brick wall marks the boundary. On the other side of the wall, about 2 dozen banana trees tower above it with their great, palm-fan leaves gently obeying the breeze. The moonlight accentuates their form and color, and the thick, lush green-ness of this beautiful land is evident even in the moonlight. It is nearly intoxicating, and it is difficult not to love the rawness of this place.

Daylight is another story. Morning, noon, or night, weekend or weekday, this country is never still. People are moving fast, the market-places are like so many bee hives, the cars, boda-bodas, and large commercial trucks spew plumes of diesel fumes into the air. In the outer villages like Mutundwe, where our school is located, the diesel fumes combine with haunting aromas of the several area bakeries and the raw sewage running beside them, all layered with that blasted red dust. Even the dozen-or-so cows that seem to wander aimlessly through the village interrupting the flow of traffic are covered with the red haze. You may have just had dinner, so I won't begin to describe what comes out of my nose at the end of the day.

This trip is a little unusual in that there is no manual labor for us to contribute. Sometimes, the U.S. volunteers have contributed sweat equity, but there are no classrooms to be built or painted this year. Which, by the way, is perfectly fine for me. From November through the beginning of the spring rainy season is usually the hottest time of the year, and this year has been particularly warm. Smokin' hot. I suppose we could have helped dig some trenches, but trench digging is not exactly my forte, and I am certain the professional trench diggers would not have wanted us in the way. Although I would have been happy to do it. We spent Saturday at the school meeting some of the new parents, talking with the kids, and meeting with David about the strategic plan, particularly regarding the rain trenches, the latrines, and the clinic. Every now and then, I get a really good photo of these kids, and I think I got 4 or 5 on Saturday. Of course, I took about a hundred photos, but a couple of them are really good. These children are really bright, polite to a fault, and are genuinely happy to see us.

Yesterday, we visited the Kasubi Tombs and the Bahai Temple. The Bugandan tribe has retained property just outside of Kampala, which has been the ceremonial home of the Bugandan Kings since 1880. At the entrance to the property, the original guard house built then is still standing, although recently refurbished, is remarkably constructed entirely from thatch, and this construction makes the inside of the house about 20 degrees cooler than the afternoon sun. It felt like it was air-conditioned and absolutely amazing. The land houses the descendants of King Mutessa I, who ruled the Buganda tribe from about 1850 to 1884. Muteesa had 84 wives and more than a hundred children. My man.

The people living in the houses now are his descendants, and the current kingdom provides money for them and ensures the education of all the offspring. The property has about 10 houses on it as well as the tombs of Muteesa's family including his siblings. The land has a well-cared for cemetery plot, a beautiful garden overlooking Kampala, and has gravestones from the mid-1880s to 2006. Native story tellers give a verbal account of the rich history of this tribe which still counts about 1/3 of all Ugandans as members.

Our new liaison officer, Ssebunya Kizza, is a Bugandan, and his grandfather was the first president of Uganda after the ouster of Idi Amin. His grandfather, who fled the country after Amin took power, was chancellor of a university in the UK, but was enticed to return and, because of the high regard with which he was held, installed as president to help bring order to the country. He reigned for 69 days until order was restored and elections could be held. Fascinating stuff.

There are only 7 (I think... maybe 8) Bahai Temples in the world and one is here. It sits, naturally, atop a huge hill and is breathtakingly beautiful. Upon arrival, we met the caretaker... Wesley... from Seattle, who has been living here for 11 years. Those kinds of things happen often here. We meet people and everyone always asks, "How did you get here?" The question really is, "Why are you here?"

Yesterday morning, we took over 400 dresses to the school that were sewn from pillow cases by a church group over the course of the last year. Naturally, every girl in the school was given a dress, and we returned this morning to take photos. You had to be here to appreciate it. You pick an emotion, we saw it... gratitude, appreciation, joy, happiness... I would even throw in "tickled-pink." I have wonderful photos to share with you. Here is my brief plea, which I am sure Carolyn will beat you over the head with later: If you sponsored a child last year, please do so again. These children and their families, when there is one, are most appreciative. Your money is neither wasted nor taken for granted, and I will make every effort to ensure you stay aware of how your donation is being spent and the progress of your sponsored child.
With everything we have to do to in order to make this a first-class school, we really need your help. If you have not sponsored a child before, please do now. The cost of posho, which our kids eat every day, has increased 300% over the last two years. One cup of sugar costs 20,000 shillings, about $8. Now, fortunately, we don't buy sugar for the kids, but I want to give you a frame of reference for how the economy is here. Expensive. Two years ago, a one-year sponsorship for a boarding student cost us $125. This year, it will cost $275 and $175 for a day student. I hope you will help.

After our time at school, we had to go back to Kampala to try to finish banking and legal business. Renee leaves tomorrow and we are still trying to wrap up her stuff. I am certain we will get it all done tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 8 February

As I have said before, this is a country of paradoxes, the old and the new. A country that has more cell phones than land lines, but the cell phone network is so primitive as to not carry a voice mail option. This is a country that is struggling for economic advancement in a modern world while clinging to customs and a tribal system of another era.

The rooming house where I am staying costs about $23 per night and, from the lawn where I usually have my meals, I can see the Sheraton in Kampala which costs about $400 per night. On Monday in Kampala, while walking from one bank to another, I nearly tripped over a baby sitting on the dirt side walk. She could not have been more than about 18 months old, dressed in what once was a cute little brown and white striped dress with a traditional green African print scarf draped across her shoulders, all of which are mostly just filthy rags now. Delicate hoop earrings dangled from little ears on her nearly bald head, and her spindly mud-crusted legs were crossed in front of her, probably mostly to prevent her from falling over.

I didn't see her at first because she was so tiny and because of the deluge of people traversing the side walk. Nearly falling on and over her, I stopped and looked around, my western sensibilities and paternal instincts engaged. She sat with eyes staring at nothing and with hands outstretched as much as little 18-month old arms can reach, with palms upward waiting for someone to drop anything into them. No one did. There was no one anywhere nearby who appeared to be a parent, guardian, or even remotely concerned or conscious of her presence.

Am I the only one seeing this blind child sitting in the dirt? Is there not one other individual who thinks this is strange or who even sees this, or is everyone as blind to this child as she is to us? Inside, I know that someone put this baby here and is watching her, even though I cannot identify the culprit. I know that if I drop a coin into this baby's hand, someone will rush to pluck it out. I also know just as strongly that putting anything into her hand is a waste of time and money. I know it just as well as all the other blind people on the street know it and, like them, I turned and walked away.

There are few facilities in Uganda that provide care for people with disabilities and, like practically every other country, the need is far greater than the available resources. The meager facilities that do exist are mostly in the outer regions, away from the capital city of Kampala, for many of the same reasons that the mayor of our fair city orders a "sweep" of the homeless population when there is a high-profile Pittsburgh event. The biggest difference is that here, the sweep is every day and permanent. Advocates for people with disabilities often "collect" them, drive them to one of the outer facilities for "care," and then daily bring them to highly trafficked areas to beg, to draw attention to the problem and, like people have done since forever, to exploit them.

 If people, adults or babies do receive any alms, the people who bring them into the city will simply take the money for gasoline, car maintenance, or other expenses. The cost of doing business. And, of course, many times it is the parents themselves who place babies in these spots. It is a terrible problem in Kampala and in this country, but this was the first time I saw a baby being used. When we walked back from Barclay's Bank, she was gone, but all the other blind people were still going on about our business. I guess, sometimes, it is easier being blind.

Yesterday morning, we visited the Miriam Foundation. Our new liaison officer, Ssebunya Kizza, is also the executive director of the Miriam Foundation, a grass-roots organization concerned with the clean water issue. Ssebunya found an economic development grant offered by the U.S. embassy that provides water pipes to bring clean water to depressed communities and to highly at-risk children. Ssebunya applied for it representing our school as well as other organizations and communities that he advocates for, and the grant was awarded. I will try to get all the details before I leave here, but this is a huge deal. The cost of water is like the cost of sugar.
Unbelievable. The easy access to potable water in these small villages is as rare as it is expensive. Having the U.S. embassy providing the resources to get drinking water to the school is a game-changer for us. We are all very excited.

After enjoying delicious samosas at the Miriam Foundation, we went to the school. We drafted a budget for our 2-year construction and development projects, gave Tootsie Rolls to the kids, and I took about another hundred photos. Maybe not quite that many, but it would be easy to take pictures of these kids all day, with these beautiful, compelling faces and captivating smiles. Around noon, we ventured back into Kampala and finished our banking and legal business.

Renee departed the Pearl of Africa last night, so I am left alone to carry on. I finished our legal business this morning and then went to the school. The admissions director, Waswa, and I updated the sponsorship list so that I can give accurate information to all of you who are supporting children here. Last year, we had 372 children enrolled and we graduated 37 from our P-7 class. As of today, 267 children have arrived on campus with more arriving every day, and Waswa says he expects an enrollment of more than 400 this year.

The school is increasing in popularity due to the capital improvements over the last few years, the students' high scores on the national exams, and of course the scuttlebutt about the mzungus. It becomes a little uncomfortable for parents to continually approach us and offer their effusive gratitude when we have really done so little. The commitment of these teachers and the energy and drive of these students is what is making this school remarkable. Most of our teachers come to the school on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and have impromptu classes with the boarding students. The students who live nearby will walk over and join in, and they love it. I don't know many American children whom we could coax into voluntary weekend classes.

Saturday, 11 February

The afternoon heat often seems unbearable. The country has plenty of hills and mountains, but the Entebbe/Kampala area has relatively low-lying ones that are kilometers apart, so there is little escape from the daytime equatorial sun. But between 5:30pm and 7:30pm the temperature goes from about 95 - 75 degrees, which makes for wonderfully pleasant evenings. After 6:30pm when darkness is descending, the constellations are already bright, and even through the smog and pollution, the bright, steadfastness of Venus is easily discernible in the western sky. Two nights ago, the moon was full and the rabbit appeared as clearly as if painted on the moon's surface. There's a sight you cannot see in Pittsburgh, but I will be pleased to return to our fair city... to the cold and snow of winter. I will be glad to return... I think. Okay, yes, I'll be glad in spite of the cold and snow.

The last few days here have been intense: Meetings and discussions about the water projects, possibilities of solar lighting at the school, partnering with a local home economics institute to have our kids' uniforms made, healthcare for our kids... HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, children must be de-wormed on a monthly basis, preparation and cost of supplies for our older girls who will soon begin menstruation and, of course, how to handle the continually rising costs of food, just to mention a few issues. That was almost like a Charles Dickens' sentence, wasn't it?

So, the past few days have been intense but productive. This is my last update from this trip to Uganda as I prepare to leave, and offering final thoughts seems inadequate to describe the effect this country and this people can have, so I have lots of photos to share with you. We will get some posted on the ARSF-USA website when I return. Hopefully, a picture will be worth, perhaps not a thousand, but at least a lot of words.
Michael Aaron Glass


Volunteers' Blog: Renee Waun (2012)


January 26, 2012

Hello Everyone!
I'm writing to you from a business center in a guest house near Mengo. It's much nicer than the old "internet cafe" we used to get down in Nateete. It's clean! The computers don't have sticky keyboards. Yay.

For this trip, I flew Belgian Air....through Brussels. So that means I got to eat Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolates and Belgian endive.... (pronounced on-deev). Yum. That was the upside. The downside was the SCREAMING baby for the entire 10 hours from Brussels to Kagali, Rwanda.

This new housing arrangement is working out well. We are staying at the Manhattan Guest House. Ssebunya came with a taxi to pick me up at the airport and take me directly there where he had made the reservations for me. It turns out that the owners have lived in the States.....so the daughter I met told me she grew up in .....guess what....Pittsburgh!! She speaks perfect American, idiomatic English. What a coincidence!

She is now in college in the States and vacationing here at the family business. Her parents live in Florida and run the business from there. So the manager here is named Joan (pronounced JO-un). She arranged for a better room for me today, as the guest house was full until this morning, and now I get a room with a wash basin, an electric fan and a toilet seat. Yay.

Other guests at the place are so interesting. A woman from Australia is engaged to a man from Sudan.....one of the Lost Boys who is now all grown up and ready to get married. He has very black skin, six long straight scar lines across his forehead to mark his tribe and four teeth knocked out as a sign of his tribe.....two from the uppers on each side, and the two from the bottom center.

His name is William. He was abducted from his home in Sudan, spent time in a detention center in Kenya, walked with about 30,000 other boys for weeks and weeks in bare feet to Ethiopia where he got some schooling. The boys would sleep out in the open on canvas mats, having one blanket for two boys. Every night a lion would come and devour one of the boys. William said they would take turns pounding on a drum to try to keep the lion away. The lion followed them the whole way.
He now lives in Uganda, but he and his fiancée are driving up to (now) Southern Sudan to build a little house. He explained what it's like now that there are two Sudans.....the north is Muslim and the south is Christian, and where people ended up in the wrong new country, it is a problem because the Muslims in the north are Islamists and kill Christians rather routinely.

Anyway, I got to listen to his stories. He mentioned that a woman from the UK named Emma has written a book about her work with the Lost Boys. I intend to read it someday. He recommends it highly.

The big plus about the Manhattan Guest House is that it is located on a green hillside with many palms and flowering trees. Lawn tables and chairs and very friendly staff. But by far the most striking difference between this place and he old Comprehensive Hotel is that it is Q U I E T....!!! Wow. You can actually get some sleep (at least after it cools off a bit and the neighborhood dogs stop their noisy chorus.) So much better than in previous years!

Michael Glass arrived last evening, and this morning we met to talk about out action plan for this trip. We have a lot to do. Ssebunya came over after breakfast and we outlined ideas that we have involving his possible work with us. Later we were visited by a man who is a batik artist, selling his wares. He really is a wonderful artist and his prices were quite good.

Michael and I talked with him about coming to the school and teaching some of the older children how to make batiks. We are thinking that the children could make small ones that we can attach to stationery to make greeting cards to sell for a fundraiser. We negotiated with him about what it would cost for materials, his time, etc.
Tomorrow morning we will be going to the craft market to purchase some inventory for our craft sales. We will also order the braided bracelets that American teens like to wear. We have a particular crafter in mind to make them, and we hope that she will be there in the morning, because we plan to order 500 of the bracelets and it will take at least one week for her to make them. The market is only open on Fridays.

We are also planning to open a new bank account at the Barclay's Bank because we've been having trouble getting our monthly bank wires to go through to the local PostBank Uganda account. It doesn't have international routing except through two different Citibanks, so with Barclays, the routing will be much simpler (we hope!)
Michael and I have brought hundreds of dresses made from pillow cases, made and collected mostly by women from the Ligonier UU Fellowship. I also hand carried a valve trombone on every plane, and I’m sure the students at the school will be thrilled with all these gifts.

Today is the 26th anniversary of President Museveni coming to power, so all government offices are closed today.

The earliest we will be able to visit the school will be on Saturday or Sunday, and I know they will be very glad to see us. They always are!

Well, enough for now.

Love to All,

January 27, 2012

Hello Everyone,
Well I said "yay" too soon on the room fan. It doesn't work and my clock thermometer registered 85 degrees last night. My home thermostat in PGH is set at 68. So, although it's nice and quiet at night, the heat is almost unbearable. Plus, my body is so covered with bug bites that I look like I have the measles, and the heat, sweat and itching kept me up most of the night.

I think I have some Cortisone in my med kit I hope I hope.

Today we hired a driver to take us on some errand to Kampala. Ssebunya went with us to do the bargaining at the craft market. It worked great. I had a list of last year's prices plus my shopping list, and he got the best prices while I sat in the shade. Then I stepped into the market and picked out the items after he got the prices for me. Teamwork!!

There are Marabou storks everywhere in the trees, many in nests with babies. Ssebunya told us that the meat is so toxic that even flies don't multiply on their carcasses. If the meat was edible, we wouldn't see any storks, because people would have eaten them all by now. I hadn't thought of that!

We had business at the bank and at the lawyer's office, and we also stopped by the Indian market to see our friends who own the store from past years. They were so happy to see us. It was really fun. The Comprehensive Hotel is across the street from the store, and the building they have been working on beside the hotel for about 6 years is almost finished. It's amazing. It will be a big shopping building.

So now we are back in Mengo at the Namirimbe Business Center. On the 1/4 mile dusty walk up a big hill Michael and I saw the biggest rat we have ever seen. Fortunately, it was dead in the drainage ditch. Eek.

I plan to go to the school tomorrow to deliver the dresses. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Well, some kind of alarm is going off so I have to sign out.

Sending Love,

January 28, 2012

Hello Everyone,
Another HOT day.....but productive and fun. Michael and I decided to visit the school together today, to oversee progress, talk with Uncle David and the others who are there before the opening of the school year (Monday). We sure surprised them and they were very excited to see us!

We decided to bring the little dresses next week some time, so there will be plenty of little girls to model them for us.

My protégé Bryan was there, too, and very eager to see the valve trombone that I hand carried for the band. Bryan plays brass instruments and helps the children to learn how to play them. Bryan now has his certificate as a bookkeeper and has been interviewing for jobs.

So, what does the school look like since last year? The first thing is the wonderful driveway, and flat parking area and car turn-around. It is surrounded by a curb and you don't have to hang on to your hat when trying to open a car door against the gravity pulling you down the hill anymore! It's super.

Also, every classroom now has metal doors and windows with glass installed so the rain can't come in. They all have ceilings painted white and plaster walls, and good cement floors. They will have to replace some of the chalkboards this year, as they usually do at the beginning of the school year.

The clinic is all spic and span, and the new medicine cabinet looks great, although quite empty at the moment. Mary, the nurse will be coming again to visit the children once school re-opens and she will require another inventory of medical supplies, which we hope to purchase while we are here.

The biggest priority right now is keeping back the rain water from rushing down the hill from above and swishing through the campus. The land on the hill up behind the school has been developed for new (big fancy) houses, and so they have graded a road straight up the hill.

When it rains, as during the rainy season especially in December, the water sweeps down the road over a little bluff into the school yard, smashing through rocks and discarded bricks etc., over the playground, into the newly constructed water troughs on one side, around the classroom block, over the wall into the girl's latrine.
The other stream goes straight down, over the wall and into the girls' dorm on one end. Some of the water that runs behind the classroom block is taking away the soil there, and we will need to put some new cement on the outer walls to keep them from washing away over time.

So the priorities are first, to build a wall at the top of the school yard to divert the waterfall that forms there, and dig trenches to make the water go to the left and right and on down the hill well beyond the lower buildings. We will be making an assessment on the finances when we sit down with a builder next week.

We were going to bring up some ideas like teaching the children how to make batik greeting cards and other crafts we could sell, but this rain water thing is an emergency and is now at the top of our priority list. We will be making a list of the building projects that need to be started right away, before the next rains come and wash away what we have accomplished over the past 6 years.

Our Liaison Officer will have to give us regular reports and updates so we can closely monitor the progress of things.

After taking some photos, we were nearly passing out from the heat, so Peter drove us down the dusty, rutty road to the Indian market, and then to the Comprehensive Hotel to take tea and to see if any of our friends were there from prior years (employees). The one person we recognized immediately was the owner who was very glad to see us. The building itself gets more upgraded all the time.

Now they have a big terrace off the back of the dining room, where people can sit outside and watch the entertainment on the big stage. So under that terrace is now an addition on the kitchen, some storage rooms for cases of beverages, etc. It now looks like they can accommodate over a thousand people at a time, in the stage grounds area, on the terrace, in the lower courtyard and in the dining room.....all watching football or musical concerts.
(I'm remembering all the racket that produced when we would try to sleep at night!!!!!!!)

The kiosks across the street, along with the car wash field are now completely changed. The lot has been cleared and a big metal fence is all around it. We think the night club over there with the thatched roof might be expanding to compete with the hotel. If that's true, then NO ONE will be able to sleep with all the racket, especially on weekends. The road noises seem to get louder every year on Rubaga Road!

On our way back to Mengo we passed a terrible accident. A boda boda (motorcycle taxi) had been crushed front and back between two matatus (minivan buses). You could barely recognize the cycle, the driver's seat was still intact, but the passenger seat was totally gone, and the front wheel had been embedded into the back of the matatu in front.

We were thinking that there must have been a lot of injuries, between the two matatus, and especially with the boda driver and possible passenger. The police were there trying to direct traffic around the accident.

Ssebunya had told us that there are no regulations for boda drivers in Uganda. Or....more accurately....if there are regulations, they are not enforced. This is true concerning helmets, number and weight of passengers or cargo, driver training, etc. So he said every day there are probably dozens of really serious accidents because of the bodas.

The boda is the vehicle of choice, however, because the traffic is so extremely heavy with matatus and cars that sometimes you can't make any progress unless you can zip in between on a cycle. When we were in town yesterday, a green right turn arrow would appear at an intersection, and before we could even start the turn, about 3 dozen cycles with passengers would zoom to fill the void in the brief moment before cars could go.

At one point, I saw two armies of cycles coming across the intersection from opposite directions all headed straight for each other, and somehow they managed to weave themselves through without hitting anything. And don't think for one minute that I would even consider renting a car and driving it myself in Uganda!!!
One thing that contributed to yesterday's traffic through Kampala was the visit to President Mouseveni by the President of Rwanda. There was a lot of activity of ambassador types and military types around the Parliament buildings, and an enormous white tent set up with hundreds of folding chairs covered with white covers and bows to make them look really fancy.

Because tomorrow is Sunday, we think we will probably visit the International Baha’i Center in Kampala. Apparently it is a local site that people come from miles around to see. It has acres of gardens on the top of a big hill, and a representative building to represent every major religion, plus their own dome at the summit. It should be interesting.

The compound where I am right now is part of a big hotel and mission center from the Roman Catholic church. There is an enormous cathedral on this hill behind the hotel, along with another interreligious center which is still under construction, but already looking really stunning. I’ll take some photos.

On the garden in front of everything today they are setting up clusters of patio tents for a wedding. We will probably hear the celebration for most of the night, as Manhattan Guest House is just down the hill from here. Wedding celebrations can go all night long in Uganda.

Oh and here's a little tip on how to power up an electric fan if the cord does not have a plug to plug into the wall outlet. Keep in mind that the outlet is the British style, with two large input holes on the sides and one big input at the center top. Simply take the cord with the two bare wires in one hand and two toothpicks pinched together in the other hand. Simultaneously insert the bare wires into the side holes while pushing the toothpicks into the center hole, and voila, it is now ready to power the fan.
I should say, "Don't try this at home". ha ha ha

Enough for now.

Love to All, Renee


January 30, 2012

Hello Everyone,
The business center is closed on Sundays, so no internet until today.

Michael and I met an Indian couple Jolly and Mitesh who are staying at the Guest House. Mitesh is here working with a medical supply company nearby, and Jolly is an architect on holiday while her husband is working every day. They had the weekend off, so yesterday we all went to an island in Lake Victoria where they have a chimpanzee sanctuary where orphan chimps have been brought there because they were snared or caught in a man-trap and left to die and their families left them behind.

There are 44 chimps on the island. The park workers know all the chimps' names and the chimps know their own names. The females are all given IUD devices which are changed every three years so they can control the population. But one of the IUDs failed and one female got pregnant. So her baby is the only one who is not an orphan and they named her Surprise.

We got to watch the chimps being fed. They wait on the other side of an electric fence while the workers take handfuls of fruits and other treats and fling them over the fence. The chimps make quite a racket when it's time, calling for the others to come out of the forest to feed. When the Alpha male Maki struts forth, all the other chimps clear a path. He really swaggers when he walks!

The chimps run around and grab the food in their hands and feet and stockpile them until all the buckets are empty, then they either sit and eat their stash or retreat into the forest with their trophies. A couple of the fruits landed directly under the fence, so one of the big males went and broke a twig off a tree and used it as a tool to scrap under the fence and retrieve the food. It was very fascinating. After returning to the mainland, we had a couple of hours to wander through the local zoo to see all the wild animals that freely move around. Of course, they separate the prey from the stalkers. The lions were really feeling lazy because it was so very hot.

One big ostrich was doing a mating dance for me and Jolly. The diversity of birds was really stunning. We watched one huge nest where a male and female Hammock Hawk were working to build a strong nest for egg laying season.

We had lunch at a lake side restaurant and discovered rather quickly that a troop of Vevret Monkeys were being naughty around the guest's tables. They were leaping up on tables and snatching food from people's plates. One monkey jumped up and quickly grabbed a handful of Jolly's French fries and ran off to gobble them up. The server had a rake that he was using to try to chase the monkeys away, but they were too clever for him and so they kept getting away with things.

One of the most fortunate outcomes of meeting Jolly and Mitesh is that Jolly has had a lot of experience designing schools as an architect. We were telling her about the water problem we were having there, with the erosion and water damage around campus.

The other water problem of course, is the most immediate one, and that is that the water source has dried up. There is one water pipe that comes into the school but there is no pressure and so the children must walk great distances to collect water from a well. If they were to buy water to fill the water tank at school, it would cost a fortune, and the water would only last a couple of days with all those children.

When we explained all this, Jolly said that instead of trying to divert the rainwater around the school grounds, we should try to capture the water and put it to use for washing clothes, people and school equipment. She brought out her laptop back at the Guest House and showed us diagrams of how it might work. And she sketched out an elevation of what storage pits would look like terracing down the hill at school.

We have made a date to take Jolly to the school tomorrow so she can look everything over and give us her best advice. She is a very sweet lady.

The other fortunate thing is that her husband Mitesh works near an NGO that does micro lending. He is going to try to get information for us about that.

When we went to the school this morning, Bryan Ddibya was there all dressed up to thank us on behalf of the people who gave sponsorship money to his niece and nephews. Bryan's brother died and left three children who are being raised by elderly relatives who also have other children to raise. Nathan Thomas raised money for these children, and I got to go to the home and greet the family. They were extremely grateful for the money because their school begins tomorrow and the little girl was thrilled. She went to put on her good clothes to get her photo taken. The old aunt offered me a gift of a tomato. She was in the process of putting the rest of her stalk of green bananas in a bag for me, but I told her she had all those children to feed, and with that number of bananas, she could make matouke for about three days.

So we had quite a time meeting with various people today. At the hotel we met with Ssebunya who is working on getting some grant money to get water for the school through the Miriam Foundation. Then we met with John, our Liaison Officer. Michael and I had already decided that we needed to make a change because John is young and inexperienced and not living up to our expectations. So we are making a change and our friend Ssebunya, who is well connected and very trustworthy and thorough, will be taking up the position starting Friday.

At the school we met with the carpenter Joseph who has been slowly completing the building projects. Uncle David and some of the teachers were telling us that Joseph works so slowly that they are very frustrated with him, so we may have to make a change there as well, especially after Jolly comes with her expertise and helps us to strategize and make a new building plan.

Uncle David had asked us to wait until next week to bring the dresses so the rush of the first week of school would be out of the way. We agreed. Things can be a bit chaotic around the first few days.

He also told us that the school needs some new triple decker metal bunk beds for the boarding students. So that will be another priority to put on the list.
Michael and I check out the computer room. When the rains came, the water surged over the door sill and flooded the room with about 2 inches of mud. You can see the mud marks on the legs of the tables and chairs, on the walls and floor. So Bryan took it upon himself to build a brick threshold to hold the water back next time. Once we get the water erosion problem solved, this should help!

The road from Nateete up to Mutundwe seems to get worse every year. It's because of the terrible erosion with the uncontrolled rains. When you drive past the squalor along the road, there is an interesting mélange of fresh bakery smells on one side mixed with the smell of the open sewer and standing water on the other. Yuk. There is no "big picture" plan for the erosion. The trucks keep bringing in huge loads of red dirt to fill in the gullies, but the rains keeping washing it down and make new gullies. It never gets better.

I forgot to bring the valve trombone with me today, and Bryan was disappointed. But I promised I would bring it tomorrow, so he is summoning Samuel the band teacher to come and have the children play what he thinks is our national anthem: God Bless America. I thanked him, and also told him that although that is a lovely patriotic song that we all love, it is not our national anthem, but whatever the children play, we will love, and I thanked him.

I'm the only one sitting here in the business center at the moment because the internet is down in the whole area. The man who runs the center said I could use this server computer for a while. That means Michael is still taking tea on the veranda waiting for the internet to kick in. It's been two hours.

Well, enough for now.

Love to all,

January 31, 2012

Hello Everyone,
The most comfortable time of day here on the Equator is from about 4am to 8am. That's when you can sleep. Then it starts getting really hot! This morning I was looking for Bosco, the man who does the hand laundry because I had given over all my red dirt encrusted socks to be washed and I needed a pair for today. When he appeared with his arms full of my laundry, he had ironed all the tops because he didn't like the wrinkle that forms across the middle when things are hung on the line. So, I now have nice white ironed shirts, and, most amazing of all, sparkling white socks!! I don't know what kind of soap they use, but the socks are cleaner now than when I washed them with Oxyclean, at home in my washing machine.

This morning Jolly and Ssebunya joined Michael and me to go to the school, because we needed Jolly the architect to see the site and make recommendations to us. She had only seen photos of the place.

>Jolly is about 4' 8" tall, so she looks like a child, but she and Mitesh have three grown children! We gave her a tour of the campus and she took quite a few photos with her camera. She pointed out some things that we need to watch, regarding some masonry cracks that are starting to appear here and there, We showed her where the water is coming in and how it rushes across the school grounds forming ruts and big trenches that bring the floods because of the new road on the hill above us.

She went around and behind every structure and asked questions about lot lines, etc. Then she, Michael, David, Ssebunya, Bryan and I gathered in the clinic where it was shady and we had a table where Jolly could put her laptop to show diagrams, and where she could put down paper to draw a plot sketch.

We will need to build one retaining wall at the top of the property, then a network of trenches, lined with concrete and covered with iron grills. That will divert much of the water. Then, there will still be other runoff that we can catch in a terraced pit system. Jolly was very good at explaining the reasons for everything, and drawing detailed sketches of how the water would flow and what the pits should look like, where they should be and how they must be constructed.

Michael and I are hoping that the locals will understand and be able to follow through on the plan, even though it will take months to raise the money it will take to do the project. Uncle David said that the next door neighbor doesn't live in the area, but has given permission to build the first wall on his property, but he won't be around until April to give final approval of the location, etc. Meanwhile, I think Ssebunya will have to look around for contractors who can give us estimates for the work and materials. This is a top priority.

David was also telling us about how much it is costing for the school to purchase water every day. He has to add that to the cost of the school expenses, so he is hoping that it doesn't scare some families away. He said the water costs as much as the food.

I did take the valve trombone to the school today and Bryan hurried to open up the case, assembly the slide and blow a few notes. Samuel wasn't there to play God Bless America, as promised, but he will come another time. Meanwhile, Bryan had several of the students write thank you notes, and of course, along with the thank-yous came requests for the instruments they are hoping to get next: side drums, symbols, bass drum, which they don't have as yet.

We have become addicted to pineapple here because it is so incredibly sweet and juicy. There is a vendor not far from here where Michael likes to stop and pick out a ripe one to bring back to the guest house, where the kitchen staff cuts it up and brings it to table to share with Jolly and Mitesh.

There must be one kitchen staff person whose job it is to cut the paper napkins in half and wrap each half carefully around a fork and knife. When they bring the pineapple served up on a platter, they bring us each a saucer with the wrapped utensils. By the time we are finished, the juicy plates have attracted quite a lot of hungry flies!

While enjoying our evening treats, we get to hear stories from our Indian friends. They told us they live in the area where there are high rise buildings owned by the American corporations that outsource their tech support. Huge rooms are divided into areas, staffed by workers paid by HP, Sony, Norton, etc. etc.
They told us that these companies hire very young workers, in their late teens and early twenties, for about $500 per month, which is a salary that a young person can live on, but they usually still live with their parents, because it is not a wage you could support a family on. But there is no advancement. After about 2-3 years, the worker gets burned out because of the long hours and the abuse they take from angry clients, and then they have to decide whether to go back to school and take a chance on getting a better job after spending all that money for school.

Mitesh said these young people have bad nutrition because the company brings in fast food so they don't have to take time to go for lunch. And they work around the clock to keep pace with the time change in the west. He said that 65% of the Indian population is under the age of 30, and the government has no master plan for making a good future for these young people. He is quite concerned about that.

Well, I have to help Ssebunya get some work done on the computer in the completion of some grants he is writing on behalf of the Miriam Foundation.....and the application is due tomorrow, so he is getting nervous. Peter will have to drive him to town to complete his work today.
The alarm is going off again, meaning that the electricity will be going off in about 10 minutes, so I'll have to sign off.

Enough for now.

Sending Love,

February 2, 2012

Hello Everyone,
Well, we've been busy around here, running around in 90 degree heat (pant, pant.....)

We've been having meetings with Uncle David, Waswa, Ssebunya, Jolly, Bryan, etc. doing more walking through of plans and priorities.

Today we made a list of the most important things that need to be done at the school. It happens that this is the first week of school, so the district school inspectors came around to evaluate the school. Overall they were very impressed with the progress we have made in the last three years especially! They gave us high marks for that. They love the new buildings!

Then they told us about the things that need immediate attention. First, the boys' and girls' latrines need to be expanded. They are simply not adequate for the number of children using them. So we need to begin construction immediately. Also, there are not enough triple bunk beds for all the boarding students. So we need to purchase more beds at $100 each.

Next on our general priority list is to complete the walkways that Joseph started. He was not doing his job sufficiently, so we need to find someone who can finish the cement work. Maybe it could be the same contractor who does the drainage trenches for us, to divert the rushing water away from the school during the rainy season. The rainy season will begin in August.

We are also giving Waswa, the admin assistant, the list of sponsorships and having him update them now that school is starting again for the year. We are not sure which children will be returning, and so he will help us get the whole list squared away so we can begin taking photos, etc.

I had a long meeting with Mary the nurse. What a sweet lady she is! She and I sorted through a big foot locker full of medical supplies that have been kept in storage since we brought them one time. The new cabinet in her office is nice, and roomy enough to store a basic supply of bandages, meds, splints, tongue depressors, ointments, etc. etc.

She made up a list of all the drugs and supplies we will need for the next six months, and tomorrow when Michael and I go to Kampala, we'll shop for as much stuff as we can get. We need to pick up some plastic lawn chairs for seating in the clinic, as well as some rubber pads for the beds, some more sheets, curtains, pillows, etc. etc. for the sick bay. The refrigerator still works, as long as there is electricity available.

First thing this morning I met with a man from the company Mitesh works for:  Living Goods, which supplies medicines and other health related goods to the community. We talked about things we need to equip the clinic this year, and he gave me a price list for the meds they sell. I'm going to compare it with the list and the prices from last year to see if they will be cheaper. Then I tried to make contact again with the man across the road whom I met last week who said he is on the board of a local micro-lending organization. He will not be in until tomorrow, so I guess that will have to wait another day.

It always seems to happen that our "to do" list seems to get longer as we are here, and the days are counting down to our return. So it gets more stressful each day as we think about what still needs to be done. In the micro-lending category, for example, we haven't made any progress at all, and when Ssebunya starts working for us as our Liaison Officer, he will not have time in his busy schedule to start the process. So I'm trying to find someone already doing this type of activity to see if we can partner with them.

Meanwhile, we were out on the highway yesterday and picked up some fresh mangoes, tiny sweet finger length bananas, and avocados. Yummy.

It sure adds a nice variety to the French fries that we eat almost every day!!

Enough for now.

Love to all,

February 3, 2012

Hello Everyone,
At breakfast this morning we were joined by one of Mitesh's colleagues from Living Goods. He is an American from Vermont who has lived here for 18 months, so he knows his way around. I asked him if he could recommend a good micro-lending NGO and he did, plus gave me some websites to check out.

Several more Mzungus (white people) have registered at the Guest House, some of whom are missionaries. Two women seem to be there for an adoption of a darling little native girl, and they also have a wee puppy on a leash.....one of those typical African dogs, but this one is perky and happy; maybe because it knows it is someone's pet and not just a street dog, which is the fate of 99.8% of the dogs I've seen. They are all the same breed and wander around, getting food from anyone who will feed them. They don't defend anyone’s' territory, don't chase cars or play. They just lie there all day in the hot sun, swishing flies off their backs with their skinny tails. They are taught not to bark by throwing stones at them when they are young. So this little puppy will have his own family. Yay.

We went to the city today: me, Michael, Jolly, Ssebunya and Peter our driver. On this very hot day, things are even hotter in the city, with the crushing traffic, exhaust, air pollution and smog. We stopped by the craft market first, to pick up the braided bracelets and purchase other crafts to supplement our inventory for sales back in the States. Ssebunya is the one who finds the best prices, so we got some good deals.

We also went to the national theater craft area to look for some special things, and had lunch there. Each of us had a plate of rice, beans, chard and chapatti.....typical Ugandan lunch!

Mitesh and Jolly are leaving tomorrow, so we are all going to a nice restaurant for dinner tonight to say good-bye to our new Indian friends.

We were so wilted and exhausted from the heat today that we were not able to continue shopping for the medicines, etc. for the nurse. We did stop at a carpenter shop with an outdoor display to look for a bench that the nurse had requested, but the price was high, so we'll keep looking. We decided that plastic lawn chairs would be the best for the clinic, and we can find a bench somewhere else. Ssebunya will take care of all that later on.

Ssebunya also gave us an update on solar powered lights. He said there is a Swedish organization in Uganda that wants to sell solar powered lights at a lower price to places that need them, so he is going to see how we might get some. He is really great having connections in all kinds of venues and organizations. We are lucky to have found Ssebunya!

Enough for now.

Love to all,
Renee in Uganda

February 4, 2012

Hello Everyone,
It seems like it gets hotter here every day!!! Whew. Sorry to be complaining about the heat when my friends and family back home are probably shivering in the cold winter weather.


We've gone several days at the guest house without electricity, so no fan at night and it takes me until around 2am to get to sleep, marinating in my own juices. Yuk. That means no hot water either. The owner's daughter Caroline is on holiday here, staying at the family's business, and she called her dad who is elsewhere managing another hotel, and told him about the situation. The manager Joan has been trying to get an electrician over here because it's not a grid problem, it's a wiring problem. It sometimes takes a man to make the stern phone call to get things done faster. Gee I hope so!


Today at the school, workmen were working on fixing up the girl's latrine. There was a load of bricks and some cement and sand in piles here and there, and a guy in a blue jumpsuit and bare feet was busy on the project. He came in to meet with me, Michael, David and Waswa to determine how much the project will take. Next comes the boy's latrine project, then comes the water pipe and the other priorities we set the other day.


We don't have enough money for all the projects, so Uncle David will just have to work a little at a time to get everything completed, hopefully before the next heavy rainy season.


Speaking of rain, it hasn't rained once since I've been here this time (as if rain would help. It would only turn everything into a steam bath!)


Mitesh and Jolly left today and we all went to a restaurant dear the big mosque on Gadhafi Road for dinner. It is a place that has been there since 1981, and lots of travelers go there because the food is all grilled, big portions, low price for a three course meal. It was fabulous, and a great way to say good-bye to our Indian friends.

We stayed up late last night sitting outside in the dark talking about everything in the world. They are such interesting people. And it's hard to go to a pitch dark room where there is really nothing to do after dark (although I did bring my wind-up flashlight which helps me to find my way around the small room without tripping.) After getting ready for bed, it takes about 7-8 minutes to get the mosquito net unfurled and adequately tucked in all around the bed. If I have to get up in the night, it's an ordeal, too with the net, but one must have a net to protect against malaria. If it weren't for the mosquitos, I'd probably be able to open the windows and get a little breeze in the room.


Tomorrow we will deliver the dresses to the school. I tried to purchase some new trash bags to divide up all the dresses into sizes, and to keep them clean once they are unloaded from my suitcases. But our friends at the Indian store had no such thing. In this culture, most people just throw their trash and litter all over the ground, and they don't know much about trash bins or certainly not trash bags. So we got them to give us some old cardboard boxes. They will suit the purpose, and probably better, because they can be used for fuel once the dresses have all been distributed.


Well, my friends, enough for now. More later. This internet service is closed on Sunday, but we might be able to find one that stays open.


Love from Uganda,


February 6, 2012

Hello Everyone,
Even the locals are saying that this weather is unusually hot. Things are all dried up and the roadside greenery is what I would call roadside "brownery". Completely covered with reddish brown dust. When you wipe your sweaty forehead with a white tissue, it turns brown immediately from the dust.


Last night Michael and I were hoping to enjoy the evening in the garden without the sun beating down, and the neighbor down the hill started building a big fire, and the thick smoke just filled the entire yard. You could hardly see or breathe. Michael peered over the fence to make sure the house wasn't on fire and it was "only" a huge trash fire. Really smelly trash that made really heavy stinky smoke, so everyone trying to get cool outside was forced inside our hot little rooms.


Because it was Sunday, the electrician didn't come to fix the wires, but someone did manage to hook up the emergency generator, giving a little juice to run fans and lights for a while.


Sunday morning we stopped by the school with 8 boxes and three large plastic bags of the handmade dresses, plus about 3 dozen new pairs of flip flops and a bag of new cotton panties. We explained what they were and asked Uncle David if he could organize the girls for Monday morning so they would all be wearing their dresses for a photo session when we arrived in the morning. He was so pleased!


Then we picked up Ssebunya to accompany us on a little outing before going back to the guest house for briefing and training for the Liaison position.


We stopped first at the royal tombs of the Bugandan kings and their widows, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There was a huge old temple constructed entirely of fibers and grasses which was burned to the ground from an arson fire a couple of years ago, but all the outbuildings are still intact. UNESCO is planning to restore the temple. Each small house surrounding the ruins is occupied by one of the king's widows and her relatives. No men allowed.


The Kingdom supports the women and their relatives eternally, so they get free home, (hut, actually, but it's plastered, etc.), free water and electricity and the children get free education. Such a deal.


Bugandan kings are allowed to have more than one wife so they can produce sons. The first born son is the heir to the kingdom, meaning the property, and a subsequent son (the king chooses which one) becomes the next king. The thinking is that it's too much to expect the same person to be both the heir of the property and the king for ceremonies. The king owns thousands of acres of land in this kingdom and people can't buy it, only lease it for a number of years. There are other kingdoms in Uganda, too, and in modern times, all the kings get along. Museveni is the President who allowed the kings to reclaim their ceremonial powers.


Ssebunya says that the arson was caused by someone who is against the king. An enemy stole a sacred spear and that started some kind of feud, which resulted in the arson. The President is trying to quell outbreaks like this and disperse the king's power by doing such things as building big commercial projects right beside sacred sites, so he can monitor uprisings, etc.


We saw the widows, some graves in a cemetery, some tombs in a hut, some sacred ceremonial drums, and lots of photos and information described by our guide. When our guide showed us the old paintings of the king who built on the site in the 1800's, we were told that that king had 84 wives and about 127 children. Then we saw the next king and the next and heard about their many wives and children.


Then came Idi Amin who banished the kings, but when Amin fell from power, the first President of Uganda was inaugurated. And GUESS WHAT!?!?!?! When our guide showed us the photo of the first President, Ssebunya stood up and said, "That's my grandfather!” Yes, his grandfather was the first Pres. of Uganda!!! Ssebunya was a little boy when he went to stay for a while in the Ugandan version of the White House. Unfortunately, his grandfather was in power only a short time, because Amin's people were trying to cause trouble for the new government and possibly assassinate the President, so grandfather moved to the UK.


The grandfather died at the age of 74 back in Uganda, and the old grandmother is still living on a hill near the tombs. She has a small house and some gardens that she tends.


Meanwhile Ssebunya took center stage at the tomb museum, giving personal stories about the period of history when the grandfather was President. We were so impressed! Later I asked Ssebunya if he thought being the first President's grandson gave him special privileges, and he said he doesn't feel he needs special connections to do what he does. Amazing how humble he is.


After visiting the tombs, we went to the International Baha’i Centre on a hilltop overlooking Kampala. Many many acres of beautifully landscaped gardens surround the circular domed temple. There are nine entry doors into the sanctuary, all of which are open when it's time for worship on Sunday morning. We heard from an expat American from Seattle named Wesley that they have a beautiful choir there, too (he's the choir director and greeted us by singing his welcome). The circular sanctuary holds about 200 people and sometimes it's full on Sundays.


We met several white folks; Baha’i’s from other countries who are living and working nearby so they can participate in this religious community. Lots of locals, too. Baha’is believe in the unity of God and feel they have found the most fundamental name for the God worshipped in all religions: Baha (I think they said)


On our way home we stopped to buy more pineapples. Every time we pass a street cart or vendor with pineapples so sweet you can smell them from the car, Michael has to stop and get one. The guest house staff is very nice about cutting it up and serving it to us.


Once at the guest house, we spent a couple of hours briefing Ssebunya on his job description as Liaison Officer. We gave him the ARSF-USA Nikon camera to keep us updated with photos; my little white laptop; a step up/down transformer so the laptop won't fry when he plugs it into the 240 voltage over here; a modem for satellite internet; a flash drive with memory card adapter for sending the photos via email; some business cards; a satchel to carry everything in, and a dress shirt with matching tie so he will look professional on special occasions.


He said he thought it was Christmas and thanked us over and over again. The batteries for the camera were dead, so we had to postpone the camera lesson until we bought new AA batteries.


This morning we drove up to the school to see a beautiful sight: every little girl in the school was wearing a new sundress from the Little Dresses for Africa project. I had spent an entire afternoon on Saturday sorting the sizes so it would be easier to distribute them.


Note to the women from the UU Fellowship: thanks for bagging your dresses by size. The other dozens and dozens of dresses were all mixed up and some had things like "Size 4" written on a tag, which was not as helpful, as sizes are so different here. Actually, the only gradation we need is X-small (for the babies and toddlers), Small, Medium, Large and X-large. Sorted that way, they are easy to dole out.


Anyway, someone was in the clinic with all the dresses passing them out. Lines of girls would march in from their dorms wearing uniforms or other clothes, and march out again wearing a new dress and big smile. The little ones marched down from up the hill and older ones from down below. After they were all dressed up, the photo session began. Michael stood up on the upper terrace to do a group photo from above, trying to see the variety of the pretty dresses. If he stood on the same level, all he could see was a sea of little brown heads with one row of dresses in front.


After all the photos were taken, Uncle David announced to the girls that they dresses were a gift from America, and they could each keep their dress. Many of them had thought the dresses were school property, so when he made that announcement, a cheer went up! It was great. We still can't believe the amazing variety of colors and patterns on the pillow cases that were used to make the dresses. I will be posting photos on the website. Thank you to all the people who made and provided the dresses!


We spent the rest of the day doing banking business in the heat of the city. We had to figure out a way of making our bank wire transfers smoother, because once in a while something would go wrong with our old account where the transfer would either bounce back to the home bank, or it would get tangled up en route through the various banks on its way to the beneficiary bank in Uganda. So I think we have solved the problem by opening a new account with a major international bank.


We still have some things to do. Tomorrow morning we must go to the school and take a video of children with jerry cans walking down to a distant well for water. Ssebunya, who is affiliated with the Miriam Foundation, says that if we present a good enough case to the foundation, they will help get water to the school. So he will work on that for us. We still owe him a lesson in how to use the camera and email photos.


He will also be working with the nurse to get all the furnishings and medicines prioritized and purchased in the next few days. Also, the 500 braided bracelets I ordered at the craft market will be finished soon; if not before I leave for the States, at least by the time Michael comes back.


I’ll be flying out on Tuesday around midnight, so I have one more full day here. And one more long hot night. I’ll be very glad to get into a cooler climate!


I think it's fascinating that in the tropics, where people sweat out their salt and potassium so much, bananas grow everywhere, one of nature's highest sources of potassium to keep the body in balance. Amazing.


I want to report that we sat down with Uncle David to talk about the new school fees. They are higher now partly because the price of maize, which is their daily fare (posho), has gone way up. So we are now calculating a sponsorship for one year for a day student is $150 and for a boarding student is $275 for one year. Still a bargain, we think!


We are trying to figure out a better plan for following up the students who are graduating from P7 at ABC School and going on to Secondary school. Some sponsors would like to continue sponsoring their child (ren), and some want to start again with a young child. There is also the issue of how many children can be accepted at ABC that don't have sponsors at all, with the hope that we can find a sponsor. From the perspective of the administrator, this is a problem, because expenses for the paying students are so tight right now.


We talked to Uncle David about the concept of a "waiting list". People can put their children' name(s) on the waiting list in case a sponsor is identified. Once that child has a sponsor, the next child on the list can possibly get a sponsor. Uncle David liked that idea.


Well, enough for now.

One more night and one more day, then home.


Love from Renee in Uganda


February 7, 2012

Hello Everyone,
What a crazy busy day, trying to accomplish so much in such a short time remaining. Mostly bank business today. The smog was especially thick. Apparently Japan has raised its emission standards, so all their old cars are being dumped over here.


Now I'm going to give Ssebunya a lesson in how to use the little laptop I gave him, plus how to take photos with the Nikon and transfer them to the laptop and then email them.


That should be fun.


During all our running around in the chaos of Kampala, Peter's car battery went dead, so we had to hail a taxi and catch up with Peter later.


Well, Ssebunya is getting itchy to get started, so off I go.


Thanks everyone for reading about this great adventure!


Enough for this year.

Love from Renee in Uganda


Volunteers' Blog: Michael Glass (2011)


Thursday, 27Jan11


Arrived safely at 8:15 last night. It was a quiet and uneventful trip. I was able to get a little sleep on the planes and arrived here somewhat refreshed. There are so many things about this country that I love, and then there are the things that we have to tolerate.


I retrieved my luggage and was pushing my cart toward ground transportation where, hopefully, Hanan would be waiting for me. I was the only passenger passing through this particular end of customs and I saw the two customs agents peering at me. I assumed the attitude that if I didn't look at them, then they couldn't see me. It didn't work. They approached me, asked to see my passport and asked what I was carrying. Personal belongings, I replied.


"Everything in your bags are strictly your personal belongings?"


Well, I said, I have some eyeglasses that I am bringing to some school children, thinking I would be appealing to their humanitarianism, that they would be so happy and just let me go through.


"Eyeglasses? How many?"


"A couple hundred pairs."


"Eyeglasses? Spectacles or shades?"


Visions of a 4-hour customs interrogation danced through my head and I wondered if I was going to have to pay an exorbitant bribe or have all the glasses confiscated, so I did the right thing. I lied.




"Open and let me see."


Then I thought, I didn't even get into the country and now I'm going to jail for lying to the customs agent.


So I slowly opened one of my big suitcases and tried to remember which boxes had eyeglasses and which box had sunglasses. The agent saw all the shoe boxes and asked what was in them.

Eyeglasses, I said.




At this point, I began the most steadfast, selfish prayer I could muster and hoped that the box I selected had eyeglasses in it and not sunglasses. I opened the box, my prayer had been answered, and I showed them the glasses.


Pointing inside the big suitcase, "Open this one," he said.


I new at this point that I was really pushing it with the selfish prayer, so I mustered my best righteous indignation voice and said, You have got to be kidding me! I'm a doctor. I came all the way to Uganda to help the children in these villages, YOUR CHILDREN, to help them see better so they can do well in their school work, and this is the way I get treated!


Other people began to stop and look, and the agent said, "No sir, we just have to check. It is fine. You may go." So I quickly re-packed my eyeglasses and got out of there. Hanan was waiting in the reception area and we left.


Renee and Audrey were waiting for me when I arrived at the hotel. We sat up and talked for a while, then crashed. I was tired so I slept in this morning... got up about 8:30, had breakfast (the sweetest watermelon, pineapple and bananas I have ever tasted) and now Renee and I are at the internet cafe (not really a cafe, and just barely internet) so that you all would know I am safe and sound.


We are going to meet Hanan and then head to the school. I'll write again when I can.

We spent yesterday at the school. Only a few children were there, about 50 - 60, because David took our new band to perform at some function in Kampala. I haven't heard them yet, but they are apparently good enough to be invited to perform somewhere.

The school looks great. The construction on the new classrooms is completely finished, although we need some cosmetic touches to enhance the appearance. But the difference between these and the old wooden structures is remarkable. It was quite a feeling of accomplishment to stand on top of the hill and look down on the compound. The weather yesterday was terrific and the cool wind at the top of the hill with the children running and playing in the play area below created an idyllic picture and a great sense of accomplishment for me. This school is an entirely different place from what it was when we first began this project. All of the sponsors have contributed to an amazing effort and I hope they can share in this feeling of achievement.

The contractor broke ground for the dining hall before we arrived. The parents and students will be pleased when this building is
completed. It will be great to eat under a roof and to have a real kitchen instead of what we have right now. All in all, I am pleased
with what all of us have done in only 5 years.

We spent the entire day at the school and then met with Evelyn at the hotel in the evening. She was happy to accept the position as Liaison Officer with ARSF-USA and this will really facilitate getting student information back to the sponsors.

Time is short. We are going into Kampala today.

Things here are as you might expect... 85-90 degree weather, bright skies, and a country full of hard-working people. The enterprise of the Ugandan people continues to amaze me. My window/balcony overlooks the main street in this little town of Nateete, and you have never seen so much activity. The sun comes up around 6am and the street is bustling with people already hard at work. The car wash across the street from my room is busy cleaning the matatus. These are Nissan minivans that hold 14 people and are the taxi cabs for this country. All of them are white with official taxi cab numbers hand painted all over them. They drive into this muddy parking lot, about a half-dozen at a time, and young men wearing orange jumpsuits and knee-high gum boots bring 5 gallon jerry-cans of water from the nearby well to wash them. Water is poured inside the matatus, directly on the floor while other men use scrub brushes and brooms to scrub the seats and floor. The lot is on a hill, so the back door of the mini van is open and the water just pours out the back door, making an even muddier mess. When the taxis are backed out of the lot, they are glistening from the water and the tires spin in the mud, but you can see all the red dust just settling back on the minivans making the whole process seem somewhat futile.


People quickly jump into and out of the matatus as they come to a slow crawl at their appointed stops. The taxis stop much like we come to a complete stop at stop signs... not a real stop, but more like a slow roll-through. People are too busy to take time for formalities. Milk trucks pass beneath my window along with flat beds carrying tons green bananas, sacks of flour, potatoes, soy beans and coffee beans. A milk truck stopped a few doors down the street. Men and women from little shops come to the truck with their own 5 gallon, steel containers and a worker jumps from the passenger seat of the truck, grabs what looks like a fire hose, and fills their containers without spilling a drop on the ground. The sheer magnitude of commerce being conducted at 6am is staggering, and this activity continues all day until about 2am. Work really begins and the street really gets busy about 5pm when the sun is getting ready to set, the day gets cooler, and then nearly every square inch of sidewalk holds some kind of kiosk, stand, or table selling something or anything, from food, to candles, to mattresses to refrigerators. And this activity goes on every day. It is phenomenal.


We went to the school yesterday morning and were immediately approached by Uncle David. He excitedly explained that the national test scores from the last school year were just published, and 2 of our graduating 7th graders scored in the top 90th percentile in the entire country. I guess this best translates to a student scoring near 1600 (or I suppose that would be 2400 now) on the SAT. This, of course, was a call for celebration, and David wanted 2 million shillings to hold a community event to acknowledge the students' achievement and to garner some publicity for the school. Most of the people here think that all Americans are rich, so we had to explain that we just can't write checks on the spur of the moment. We realize though that is an event worthy of a celebration, so we decided to spend 1 million ugx (Ugandan shillings, about 385 dollars) for the celebration. This is the first time any of our graduates have scored so well and everyone at school is so excited.


We spent the afternoon shopping at the craft market and then went to Hanan's house for dinner. Eve prepared a delicious fish soup with potatoes, avocado, and cabbage. It was definitely the best meal we've had here so far. I can't wait to get my mouth wrapped around a pizza.


We are going to school now. Parents will begin bringing kids to school today and we want to be there to greet them.

I'm sort of pressed for time this morning... need to get to school for the celebration...


Yesterday was quite a day.... spent time at school greeting some of the new children and parents... took photos of some of the new students.


I had an interesting conversation over dinner last night with a social worker and a teacher. It is amazing how little Ugandans know about the African American experience. A woman asked how it could be that Renee, Audrey, and I are all from America and yet all different colors. I have known Africans in America who resented our use of the phrase African American, saying that we are not African. Many people in this country, and apparently in other African countries, have no concept of how black people came to be in America. The teacher told us that Idi Amin restricted that information from the state curricula because many Muslims were involved in the slave trade and he, being a professed Muslim, did not want that part of history taught in schools. The social worker was shocked that Africans conspired with Europeans to perpetuate the slave trade. Their collective understanding of Africans outside of the continent was very limited... limited knowledge of MLK, practically no knowledge of Malcolm X and others... fascinating.

This is an amazing country in so many ways. Yesterday we went to school for the P7 graduation and celebration. Uncle David hired a brass band and some of our students played with them. They marched through Mutundwe and encouraged people to attend the event. Tents and chairs were rented and the set-up was very festive. Rice and chicken were prepared and everyone ate under the tents, out of the hot afternoon sun. Yellow jerry cans were placed in strategic locations so that, after eating, guests could wash their hands. The entire ritual around eating at these kinds of events is very interesting. Children serve parents and adults and then they are permitted to eat. The adults, especially the women, were dressed in their finest traditional garb, bright with splendid colors, intricately wrapped and tied with big, beautiful bows on the dresses with amazing headdresses and hair styles. I am always amazed at how people keep their clothes so clean, crisp, and white in all this red dust and humidity. Somehow they do and they looked beautiful. It was quite the social event.


A professional emcee was hired and he spoke with distinction and poise, welcoming all the parents and guests and praising the children for their accomplishments. Uncle David wore his best blue suit and he wore the new shirt and tie that we presented to him the day before. He excitedly came to Renee and me seeking our approval. Everyone here is always so appreciative of the little gifts we give them. The program was long but wonderful. All the children took center stage. I cannot remember attending a school event in the U.S., not a high school graduation or any other event where people, everyone, were so excited to recognize the achievements of their children. The absolute emphasis on education and achievement here is overwhelming. Parents, who I am sure could not even read their children's certificates, came to me with tears in their eyes so grateful for our support. They know that this is the beginning of a better life for all of them, and they are not ashamed to show their appreciation. It is a very humbling and emotional experience to be so much a part of people's lives.


Our children sang and danced wearing their school uniforms, freshly washed and pressed orange and brown outfits with freshly scrubbed faces. They were amazing. They performed a little skit about the importance of education that ended with the school motto, "Education is a treasure." Then they sang and danced, performing two amazing songs, one about the grace of God shed on all of us and the other about the power of education to make life better for the whole world. We were then given a formal welcome by one of our students, a 6th grade young woman, who spoke with the diction, grace, and poise of an Oxford graduate, thanking us for our partnership with them and encouraging us to "Keep it up!" I was pretty much in tears by this time and then they performed another number, about which I can only say that you had to see it to believe it. I cannot begin to adequately describe the grace and beauty of the singing and dancing, but as children danced we witnessed another ritual. People in the audience who appreciate the performance can walk up to the dancers and put a coin in their hands. One after another, parents, teachers, even other students approached the children and without interrupting them placed coins in their hands. The children accept the coins without acknowledging the benefactors and without so much as a hitch in the performance. When the song was over, everyone applauded and cheered loudly as the children left the performance area. Then a woman said if they came back and performed that song again, she would donate 10,000 shillings to the school. Another woman said she would donate 5,000 and a few more people spoke up. Not to be outdone, Renee and I each contributed 20,000ugx and the children were brought back and performed the song again. More people approached them and put coins in their hands. I really don't know how to explain what a moving experience this was, but the entire event was amazing.


All the P7 students were appropriately honored, certificates received, and the event was concluded by a number of songs performed on native drums and the children wearing native, ritual costumes. The power of these native dances is unbelievable, and that 5 and 6 year-olds are doing them is a beautiful thing to experience. Tell Nicole that Joann performed and she is growing into a beautiful, graceful young woman. She sends her love to "Mommy Nicole." All in all, it was quite a day. We returned to our rooms physically and emotionally spent. This was one of those days where the natural beauty of this country shines and you know what a privilege it is to be here and to be a small part of these children's lives.

Yesterday was mostly a planning day. Audrey is exceptional at strategic planning and she and I spent the morning and most of the afternoon working with Hanan on school sustainability strategies. As gifted as he is, there are simply some business principles that are foreign to him and to most small business people here. Deals are done with handshakes, everything is done in cash, few vendors issue receipts, and there is almost no follow-up or accountability. You commission a guy to lay some cement, he might show up, he might not.


After our planning session, I took Audrey for a walk to see the street vendors. She was in awe. Directly in front of our little "hotel" is a line of boda-bodas. These are bicycles or motorcycles waiting for people disembarkiing from the matatus in order to take them to their final destinations... their homes, usually, which are so far from the main road on typically dirt roads that are impossible for the matatus to navigate. There are dozens and dozens of these boda-bodas blocking nearly every square inch of sidewalk. (An extremely loose definition of the word 'sidewalk' must be applied here. This is mostly a roughly poured 18-24 inches wide piece of concrete meandering down the road intermixed with its own potholes, dirt, and gravel.) Most of the boda-boda drivers do not own these 15-20 year old bicycles and motorcycles. The drivers are responsible to make enough money to satisfy the owners who then gives them whatever they deem to be their fair share. The drivers have incentive to work hard and not cheat the owners because if they are suspected of fudging, they will lose their jobs and dozens of young men are eager to replace them.


One of the most endearing aspects of life here is the absolutely phenomenal degree of industry and entrepreneurialism. Practically eveyone who can work, does work. Almost every square inch of sidewalk is occupied by a street vendor of some sort whose wares are displayed on a cart or a bench that looks like something I would make in the backyard if I had some discarded lumber and only a hammer and nails. These are the items that people were selling on the sidewalk: at one stand, a young woman was selling every imaginable size, shape and color of candle that you can imagine; at another, pancakes... these are small, round patties, about 5 inches in diameter, about 1-1 1/2 inches thick, made from coarse, dark wheat, like buckwheat. They are fried and served relatively warm, and taste like 3-day old biscuits. Actually, they look like 3-day old biscuits... that were overcooked. The gentleman selling these had his display case tied to the handle bars of his bicycle. The next spot was occupied by a couple selling roasted corn on the cob, then avocados and lemons (which look like limes... they sell them green), then an older couple selling the most exquisite glass and brass coffee- and end-tables that you have ever seen... thick, crystal clear glass with the most ornate, ostentatious design imaginable. King Midas would have been envious. The next kiosk had a few handfuls of penny candy that appeared to have arabic writings along with the laffy taffy and squirrel nuts. Too funny. Then there were bananas, then televisions, then Yesterday was mostly a planning day. Audrey is exceptional at strategic planning and she and I spent the morning and most of the afternoon working with Hanan on school sustainability strategies. As gifted as he is, there are simply some business principles that are foreign to him and to most small business people here. Deals are done with handshakes, everything is done in cash, few vendors issue receipts, and there is almost no follow-up or accountability. You commission a guy to lay some cement, he might show up, he might not.


After our planning session, I took Audrey for a walk to see the street vendors. She was in awe. Directly in front of our little "hotel" is a line of boda-bodas. These are bicycles or motorcycles waiting for people disembarkiing from the matatus in order to take them to their final destinations... their homes, usually, which are so far from the main road on typically dirt roads that are impossible for the matatus to navigate. There are dozens and dozens of these boda-bodas blocking nearly every square inch of sidewalk. (An extremely loose definition of the word 'sidewalk' must be applied here. This is mostly a roughly poured 18-24 inches wide piece of concrete meandering down the road intermixed with its own potholes, dirt, and gravel.) Most of the boda-boda drivers do not own these 15-20 year old bicycles and motorcycles. The drivers are responsible to make enough money to satisfy the owners who then gives them whatever they deem to be their fair share. The drivers have incentive to work hard and not cheat the owners because if they are suspected of fudging, they will lose their jobs and dozens of young men are eager to replace them.

One of the most endearing aspects of life here is the absolutely phenomenal degree of industry and entrepreneurialism. Practically eveyone who can work, does work. Almost every square inch of sidewalk is occupied by a street vendor of some sort whose wares are displayed on a cart or a bench that looks like something I would make in the backyard if I had some discarded lumber and only a hammer and nails. These are the items that people were selling on the sidewalk: at one stand, a young woman was selling every imaginable size, shape and color of candle that you can imagine; at another, pancakes... these are small, round patties, about 5 inches in diameter, about 1-1 1/2 inches thick, made from coarse, dark wheat, like buckwheat. They are fried and served relatively warm, and taste like 3-day old biscuits. Actually, the look like 3-day old biscuits... that were overcooked. The gentleman selling these had his display case tied to the handle bars of his bicycle. The next spot was occupied by a couple selling roasted corn on the cob, then avocados and lemons (which look like limes... they sell them green) then an older couple selling the most exquisite glass and brass coffee- and end-tables that you have ever seen... thick, crystal clear glass with the most ornate, ostentatious design imaginable. King Midas would have been envious. The next kiosk had a few handfuls of penny candy that appeared to have arabic writings along with the laffy taffy and squirrel nuts. Too funny. Then there were bananas, then televisions, then cassava... this is a tuber like a hard potato that is a staple here. Then jack-fruit, another staple, then some bed frames, which were being constructed while you wait, then some fish heads. Yes, fish heads. No, not the whole fish. Just the heads. Personally, if my fish is going to be staring at me, I want him accompanied by his filet and some tartar sauce. But that's just me.


A gentleman was walking through this menagerie with about 10 blankets balanced on his head. Another has about 30 book bags thrown over his shoulders. Irish potatoes are being cooked along with some chicken and chapati... this is a white flour, leavened bread cooked on a flat-iron type skillet and then rolled like a tortilla and it is just delicious. All of this food being cooked on the sidewalk is cooked over a pile or pot of charcoal, and the cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells is a wonderful thing to behold. You have never seen so much industry, so many entrepreneurs, so many people moving in a tight space outside of Times Square. Just about anything you can imagine for your home is being sold in a space the size of a football field... beds, mattresses, refrigerators, linoleum, lamps, clothes, luggage, fine leather briefcases... and pancakes and fish heads.

There is some sidewalk market open all day, but people really begin to do business when the sun goes down, and from about 6pm until about 2am is the most activity. When the sun goes down they light candles because there is little public electricity in this little town of Nateete, and there are almost no street lights anywhere in this country outside of Kampala. The road our hotel (another misnomer) is on is the main road that goes to Kampala, and from about 8pm until 1 or 2am, there is a steady stream of traffic... cars and people. I went to bed last night at around 11 and the headlights and tail lights were bumper to bumper for as far as I could see... about 2 miles. Life in Uganda...

How is everyone? All is splendid here. As much red dirt and dust that there is here, there is an equal amount of green, beautiful hillsides and untamed countryside. It is just beautiful. My guess is that the weather here is a bit more tolerable than for all of you in Pittsburgh. Although it rained a bit yesterday, which considerably cooled things down, the weather has not been as bad or as hot as I expected. Almost no one here has/uses umbrellas. When the rain begins, people pack up their sidewalk stores and head for cover under the "awnings" of whatever is nearby. The boda-bodas drive up next to the buildings and try to shield themselves as much as possible from the rain. Everyone is quite content to remain where they are until the rain gets to a slow drizzle, and then they go back to business as usual. The rain cuts down on all the red dust flying in the air, but the resulting mud makes walking a little hazardous.


Yesterday, while Renee and Audrey took care of some financial details, I spent the morning with Evelyn and Uncle David going over school administration details. We are trying to streamline their accounting system and help the cash flow situation. Ugandans can teach us a lot about industry and thrift, but our business principles are sorely needed here. One of the issues we are struggling with right now is parents bringing their children to school and paying the tuition, because this is election year. Elections are held every 5 years and all offices are being voted on, members of Parliament, the mayor of Kampala and the president being the most important. There is nationwide concern that regardless of the outcome of the elections, there will be civil unrest. While we were meeting with David, 3 parents called to inquire whether or not they should bring their children to school. Some parents live too far away to spend the money to bring their children to school and then have to come back and get them in a couple of weeks. The elections are 18February, and if there is unrest, it could spread to any and all communities, especially where we are. Last year, the riots in Kampala spread over into Nateete, right where we are staying now, and one of our teachers got arrested and 2 or our children got shot, probably by police. It took months to straighten out that mess and, fortunately, our children were not hurt too badly and quickly recovered. Naturally, parents are concerned about spending the money and time, having their children far from home, and being unable to come and get them. I completely understand. I cannot imagine what parents must be going through. David says that there is sure to be trouble, regardless of the outcomes because the constituency of the losers will cry foul. There are, I think, 8 people running for mayor of Kampala, so the potential for trouble is rather sure. With all the problems that there are in the U.S., we have had a series of blood-less transitions of power for hundreds of years. That's pretty remarkable and only one of the things that make me long for home. That, and the Steelers winning the Super Bowl, of course. (Sorry about the Cardinals, Ray. Is it the Cardinals? Does Arizona still have a football team?) I was here the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl so if they win on Sunday, you all can thank me for the good mojo.


After my meeting with David, we were having lunch and one of the hotel workers had her 1-year-old baby in the dining room. I remarked how pretty she was and made a comment about her having her ears pierced at such a young age. Evelyn asked about that practice in America and I told her that many parents do, but that I didn't have any of my children's ears pierced. Evelyn told me that the reason people engage in that practice, especially in the more remote areas like where we are, and further out, is to protect the baby from the witch doctors. Out in the bush, witch doctors still steal babies, but if the baby is "blemished," as in the holes in the ears, the witch doctors don't want them. Another in the long line of reasons why America is a wonderful country. No witch doctors. Except for Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. And, of course, she's not a very good one.


For those of you concerned about our proximity to and affiliation with the gay rights minister who was murdered in Kampala, do not be concerned. I assure you that we are far removed from that issue. While we have done human rights and gay rights advocacy in the U.S., we are not in any way connected with that issue here. Our concern here is the children and their education. None of us are adventurous enough (or foolish enough) to get anywhere near that issue here.


Yesterday evening, Ssebunya, a gentleman who Renee met on a previous trip, met us and we had a very enlightening conversation about the health care issue. He is going to facilitate aids/HIV education, testing and treatment for our kids, probably at no cost to us. We found out today that the incidents of people contracting HIV in Uganda, 15 years ago, was one of the highest in the world, at 35%. 35% of the population was HIV positive!! Today, it is 6.5%. So all that Bill Gates money and WHO money has done some major good here.


It is 6:30pm here, right now, and I am going to go have some dinner. I plan to spend the entire day at the school tomorrow, so I probably will not be able to send an email. I will write when I can. Hugs and kisses to everyone. Ray, kiss Sheri for me. There are prayers going up for her from Uganda.

Coming to Uganda is in every respect a life-changing experience. Ignore all of your notions, thoughts, and preconceptions about family life, government, and society. Few aspects of American life are applicable here. It is impossible to adequately convey the ubiquitous red dust and mud, the overwhelming abject poverty, the heat and humidity, the intermingling aromas of food cooking, trash burning, human and animal sweat, the mass of people, traffic, and commerce... and the red dust... and people. No one wanders along. Everyone moves through the sidewalks on a mission, getting someplace. Customary U.S. niceties, courtesies, and greetings are non-existent, and yet the people here are friendly and meek.


Along with being amazingly industrious, the people of Uganda are a stoic, staid, soft-spoken people. From the children at school to people conducting a grocery store transaction, everyone here barely speaks above a whisper. In a country of 30,000,000 people, with small towns like Nateete where people are packed in like sardines, where hardly a piece of ground is not occupied, in 3 years of coming here, I have never heard voices raised in argument. In a place where there are as many boda-bodas and matatus as there are privately owned/rented vehicles, where a driving courtesy really does not exist, where there are no posted speed limits on mostly gutter- and crater dominated dirt roads, where every driver is jockeying for the best, flattest piece of real estate, where traffic lights are few and far between, there are bound to be driver conflicts, and I have seen several of these. We were involved in ANOTHER one yesterday. Compared to the U.S., their version of road rage is more like an invitation to afternoon tea. In their very British-sounding accents, it went something like this:

Would you please back up so that I may proceed?

No, I am afraid that I was here first, and I am certain that I have the right of way.

That is not possible. I am leaving the compound and you are just entering. Mind yourself, please, and back up.


This confrontation lasted less than a minute, you could barely hear the drivers talking, and I was sitting behind our driver. No one got out of his car, no one raised his voice, showed the other person his middle finger or talked about the other person's mother, no one reached under his seat for his Glock. Our driver backed up, the other car left and it was over. No flared tempers. No one upset. Amazing.


Audrey and I went to the school today while Renee, Evelyn, and Hanan handled some admin, financial and legal affairs. One of the teachers asked me why I keep coming back here. I pointed to one of the children and said, look at that face. That's why. These children have the most beautiful, intense, compelling faces that I have ever seen, a mixture of pain and pride, ruddy and regal, and the world's brightest smiles. Their sense of family, cooperation, and collaboration is evident in all that they do, from working together on their school work to the older children bathing the younger ones at bath time.


Audrey and I sat in on some classes. There are zero disciplinary problems. None. Every child is attentive and fully engaged in every word and movement of the teacher. When a question is asked, practically every hand is raised with enthusiasm, the look on each child's face crying to be called upon to give the answer. When a particularly difficult question is answered correctly, the teacher replies, "Correct. Clap for her," and each child applauds. Their understanding of and respect for the education process is enviable. I wish we could get one school in America to demonstrate this much enthusiasm, respect, and cooperation.


I began the eye examinations today. I started with the teachers so that the children would feel comfortable. Hanan and David were my first victims. Hanan's eyes were fine, but David was surprised to learn that he needed glasses. I fitted him with a nice looking pair with white gold rims and he was delighted. He told me, "Now the school will be even sharper and more focused than it was." Delightful.


We are going to take care of some more business in Kampala tomorrow and go to the craft market. I miss you all... will talk with you soon.

I hope all is well with all of you. A short email today..


We spent today in Kampala taking care of some banking business, doing a little personal shopping, and then we went to the craft market so that we could purchase items for resale at home to help support the school.


It is not possible for me to adequately describe the sights and sounds accompanying this trip to Kampala. The traffic is a combination of Times Square, Beijing, and Mexico City without the courtesies, police officers, or traffic signals. It's pretty much chaos in the heat. Apparently, the rule of thumb for driving is if you can get the nose of your vehicle into the street or intersection, then you have the right of way. It is apparently the other drivers' responsibility to not hit you.


Just like Pittsburgh has a market district and a cultural district, Kampala has districts also. There is the paper district. If you want paper, whether it is notebook paper, composition paper, a composition book, butcher paper, wallpaper... whatever it is, you go to the paper district. If you want to buy a Muslim prayer cloth, you go to the Muslim district. If you need window glass, glass for your coffee table, any sheet of glass, you go to the glass district. If you need a piece of cloth to make clothes... cloth district. Today, we drove through the auto parts district.


Imagine half garages, or half containers, composed of old sheet metal pieces or any old piece of lumber you can find, placed side by side on each side of the street, approximately 5 city blocks long, preferably near a garbage dump in what must be considered the seediest part of town. This is the auto repair district. There are muffler shops, brake shops, hubcap shops, fender shops, seat and upholstery shops... There is not a car here probably later than a 1995 model, mostly Suzukis, Toyotas, Nissans, with a smattering of Mercedes and Range Rovers here and there. I saw one Ford Excursion. I have no idea where that came from. These cars are parked in every imaginable position and place in the street or on the sidewalk, being worked on by a motley crew of men dressed in grease-covered blue (probably) coveralls. Commerce and competition are fierce. As you drive by, every individual who is not actually working on a car jumps in front of you trying to force your car into his area by telling you that you have a flat, that he will fix it quickly, and please pull over right here. It is intense.


The craft market, on the other hand, is laid back and easy. Hundreds of artisans lay tarps side by side over about a 5 acre piece of land near the railroad tracks. As you walk past every tent-covered station, polite voices say, "You are welcome. Please, take a look." Everyone speaks to you. This is their livelihood and they know they need customers. Many of the craftsman are working as they await customers. Older women with dark head scarves and weather-beaten faces are weaving baskets from dried banana leaf straw. We watched them peel the large, dried leaves into thin strips and then deftly weave colorful, strong, beautiful baskets. It may take several hours to make a basket that would hold a dozen apples. This basket would sell for $20 - $30 in any craft market in the U.S. The woman is asking 10,000 shillings but is happy to accept 8,000... about $3.60. It feels almost like robbery to pay them so little for items that are so valued in the U.S. Some items are overpriced... the jewelry. Some items are a real bargain... items made from hematite (a beautiful dark stone from Kenya, like onyx) or something they call "soft stone" which is harder than a normal stone. A serving bowl made from soft stone, with beautiful paintings of African animals, which is about the same size as the woven bowl, sells for 40,000ugx, about $18. Well worth the price, but if you are just admiring it and not really interested in buying, they immediately begin to bargain with you. "How much do you want to pay? I will give it to you for 37,000. No? How much will you pay?" It is difficult to not feel guilty when a purchase is finally made. And, yes, I bought it. 35,000ugx, about $16... probably would sell for $50 or $60 dollars in U.S. I hope it doesn't get broken on the way home.


Time to eat. I don't eat any meat here, but I destroy a freshly caught tilapia with some french fries, which they call "chips." I miss my darling wife's potato rolls, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies... even her burnt toast.

Sometimes it is difficult to know where to even begin these notes back home. The experience here can be at once overwhelming and humbling. This is a country of paradoxes. Two or three days ago, we were in the busy capital city of Kampala. On Saturday we drove through jungle to get to Bujagali Falls, near the source of the Nile River.


This country has been free for only about 50 years, so there are still vestiges of British colonization... the language of course, the architecture in the city, the way the army and police dress, the Parliament... Kampala is busy and crowded. Traversing the sidewalks is very much a game of "chicken." Sidewalk traffic is very much akin to street traffic. You have to just stick your nose out there and take your way. If you are the kind of person who simply cannot tolerate being touched, bumped, pushed, and completely disregarded by total strangers, then this is not the place for you. There is absolutely no sense of "personal space" and few courtesies. Almost no one holds a door for the person behind him and almost no one says "excuse me" when they bump into you. They are busy going about their business. The paradox is that this is such a laid back country. A couple days ago we called a meeting for 9am. Everyone confirmed the day before, and at 9:15, only Renee, Audrey and I were present. The last person arrived at 10:40am, in absolutely no rush, and it was apparently no big deal. Time here is merely a construct around which to suggest when things might occur.


One of the benefits of a trip like this is that it is a great opportunity for self-reflection. The many privileges afforded Americans, simply because we were blessed to have been born on a particular part of the planet, is frequently and blatatntly demonstrated. I haven't had a hot shower since I have been here, and believe me I am quite put out. (I have had a shower, or two, just not a hot one.) But there are adults here who have never had a hot shower. Ever. There are adults here, most of them, who have never had a shower of any kind and who have never been in a bath tub as we know it. Ever. Evelyn is a bright young woman and a graduate of Makere University here. I had a conversation with her that some of you might remember me writing about. I was commenting on how beautiful and white some of the women's clothing was. Evelyn asked how we washed our clothes. As I answered, she simply stared. The concept of a washing machine was completely foreign to her. "Where does the water come from?" she asked. It's a different world here.


When we come to Uganda, we always take one day for purely pleasure, so we went to Bujigali Falls yesterday, about 150 miles NW of Nateete. It took about 2 hours, 20 minutes via matatu. We drove through small towns, through dense jungle, past the Nelson Mandela Memorial Coliseum which holds about 50,000 people for a football game (not real football, soccer football) and through manufacturing and industrial complexes. As bad as the roads are in Kampala, Nateete, and all points in between, the "highway" into and out of Jinja rivals any highway in the U.S. because the big oil companies put these roads in to safely transport product to Kenya et al where most of it goes.


Shanty towns still exist. On the way to the Falls, we drove past some of the worst looking slums I have ever seen. It rivaled the worst photos I have ever seen of 1960's South Africa, Honduras, or any other place you can imagine. The human condition here is almost frightening. I really don't know what else to say about it, but Americans do not have a right to complain about anything. Ever.


We drove past slums and some beautiful homes. They weren't mansions, but they showed that there are people here making a very attractive income. There was an apartment building on a hill that could easily have been located at The Summit at Frick Park or in San Francisco. We passed construction of a new church building that looked like it could have been Rick Warren's church building or Robert Shuller's Crystal Cathedral. It took nearly 30 seconds just to drive past the building structure itself. It must have covered 6-8 acres of ground. Ginormous. Yes, that's a word. The industrial complexes were equally impressive. Interesting that the two largest were Coca Cola's and a brewery. Ssebunya voiced his displeasure at these multinational companies coming here, flashing some money at the government, and then building in the wetlands helping to destroy the ecological balance. This is a real concern because the land is being consumed at rapid rates. The sugar cane, tea, and soy bean fields were lush, massive and beautiful.


What can I say about the Nile River? Beautiful, powerful, spiritual... the beginning of life, of civilization. I was in awe of it's majesty and peace. The different rapids at Bujigali Falls are rated 4, 5, 6, and 7. We took a motorboat to a small island and made a short trek to the class 5 rapids. As we walked up the small hillside, something too small to be a crocodile, but too big to be a rat made a racket getting out of our way. Our guide, a 16 year-old named Adam, said it was a mountain lizard. This sucker is huge and ugly, sort of like a cross between an iguana and a komodo dragon. We decided to give him his space. We passed a small hut and someone asked why it was there. Adam told us that a witch doctor lived there. "Come inside and look around," Adam said. "He is not here." I decided I didn't want any bad mojo on me, so I passed on the offer, although I did take a picture. I'm pretty sure that was okay, because so far, there's nothing wrong with me nothing wrong with me nothing wrong with me. We sat under a tree immediately beside the rapids. Amazing. We then walked to the other side of the island to see the class 7 rapids. As we approached, the roar of the water was like several locomotives barreling down on us. We stood on rocks 5 feet from the water. The sound was deafening. You have to yell in order for the person standing next to you to hear you. It was about 3pm, the sun was bright and the sky was clear blue. The spray from the rapids shoots about 20 feet into the air and the sun gave the mist a crystalline appearance, like so many tiny diamonds dancing and sparkling in the air, held aloft by the power of the wind from the rapids. Mesmerizing. In the name of progress, all of this will be gone in about 6 months. The government is building a dam in order to bring electricity to most of northern Uganda (and I'm sure in order to sell some to surrounding countries), and sometime this summer, this entire valley will be flooded, displacing the very poor inhabitants of two small islands here. The Bujigali Falls landmark and tourist attraction that has been here since probably forever will be gone. The price of progress, I guess.


I went to church services with Hanan on Sunday. The pastor has a translator, but the pastor switches back and forth from Luganda to English. He might start a sentence in Luganda and end it in English, so the translator does the opposite of course and you have to listen to both of them screaming into microphones that are at maximum output. It doesn't help that this is a Pentecostal denomination, so... I've had that experience now. I don't have to do it again. Afterward we went to school and we had a couple of very productive meetings that I think will bear fruit for the school in the future.

Greetings all,


Well, this will be a short report. My time here is growing shorter as the days here grow hotter. We are staying pretty consistently in the mid-nineties now, and even the evenings are not as cool as when we first arrived. The first rainy season of the year will be upon the country in about a month, so the weather gets increasingly hotter as that time approaches. Fortunately, I will be back in good old Pittsburgh before then and enjoying nice cooler temps. Fortunately??


I don't remember the last time I wrote, so the short recap is that Renee and Audrey departed the Pearl of Africa on Tuesday after some very productive meetings, including one with a doctor who works with an NGO called Uganda Cares. She has agreed to provide complete Aids/HIV screening, care and follow-up services to all of our children, at absolutely no cost to us. She is funded by an agency in L.A. and apparently has goo-gobs of cash. (My computer did not flag goo-gobs as misspelled, so it must be a word.) She may also be able to identify a part-time, on site nurse for us, again free of charge. Sweet.


Audrey will be glad she left when she did. Since they left, we have not had running water in the building, so I have taken "jerry can" baths the last 2 nights. Some of you will understand.


After some early meetings yesterday, I spent the rest of the day at school taking class photos and performing my doctorly (this is a word) duties of performing eye examinations. Of the first 23 children I saw, only 1 needed glasses, 1.25 power, so I thought, this is going to be a breeze. These kids have great eyesight. Then, of the next 23 I saw, I gave out 13 pairs of glasses. I was going to say I "prescribed" 13 pairs of glasses, but I didn't want to get too carried away with the whole "doctor" thing. I might offend my daughter who is in medical school, not to mention a whole slew (another real word) of real doctors. So far, I have given out 2 pairs of glasses to teachers and 28 pairs to children. The children are absolutely tickled with their new glasses. It was such a revelation to some of the teachers and the students who had no idea that they were having trouble because they could not see the page in front of them. There were a few who were embarrassed that they needed glasses, but some ran out of the clinic eager to show off their new glasses. Thanks to Susan Henault and the doctors who made this possible. It's a wonderful thing. I should be able to complete all of the rest of the exams today and tomorrow, but I have instructed the headmaster and one teacher on how to perform the examination on children who may enroll later, and I will leave the extra glasses here. I also examined the eyes of the staff where we are staying and gave two pairs of glasses there also, and one to our new friend Ssebunya.


By the way, I took photos of all the sponsored children who are on campus right now. Nearly 100 children have not yet reported, and probably will not until after the elections. Fortunately, I will be in the comfort of my house before then.


Well, that's it for now. Peace be unto you all.

Renee Waun (2011)


Hello Everyone,

We arrived safely last evening; here I am already at the internet café.

The flight from Pittsburgh to NY was enhanced by sitting near several newsmen from NY who had been in town reporting on the game the night before. Of course, they didn't like the outcome. And arriving in NY, all the headlines were about the Steelers' win.....

All my suitcases, musical instruments and boxes arrived safely. I connected with my new friend Audrey who is from California....on the plane from Amsterdam to Entebbe. We sailed through immigration and customs, and found Hanan outside. He had a car waiting, plus a truck for the luggage.

We got to the hotel around 10pm, and we are on the noisy street side. The Club Velvet music played until 2am, so when I get accustomed to the noise, I’ll be able to sleep better.

We didn't have drinking water for the night and to brush teeth, so we got orange sodas for that. This morning I looked for the store downstairs, and it has moved about 2 blocks down the street. Too far to walk this morning, because it's the opposite direction form the internet cafe, and we wanted to send our greetings first before getting drinking water, bug spray for the cockroaches in our rooms and snacks. Audrey needs toothpaste because they confiscated hers at the airport.

I WAS impressed by the amount of building around the hotel. The big structure going up next door gets taller every year.

Today we'll go to the school and get some photos and do some re-orienting. Audrey will want to see everything.

OK folks, I have a few minutes left, enough to read some of the many emails that are backed up.

Until next time,


Renee in Uganda

Hello Everyone,


I want to report on my first day and visit to the school. First, I apologize for not being able to answer back with individual emails. The computers here are so slow and unreliable that I barely can get these messages typed before the electricity goes off. I had to wait 45 minutes already for power this morning.


Hanan arrived at the hotel to greet Audrey and me with a contractor named Joseph who is going to supervise the dining hall project. He brought sketches of the plan; I like the way Joseph works. He does business the way I know best, with deposits up front, construction, and final payment after the work is completed. So we shook hands on the deal.


On our ride to the school, we stopped at the store down the street, because the store under the hotel has moved. The same lovely Indian men run the store, and it is bright and very clean. I was very glad to find them and they smiled when they saw me. Old friends!


Audrey had to buy toothpaste because they took hers at the airport, and big canisters of drinking water, and a large can of bug spray to control the roaches in the hotel. I want to conquer them early so they won't make inroads into the suitcases. All snacks etc. must be hung up on wall hooks!


We also stopped to visit a luxury hotel that Joseph wanted us to see, because it is a fine example of his work. It is one of the most fabulous hotels I've ever seen, and it contains suites of huge tiled living areas, modern kitchens, dining room, top quality bathrooms, etc. They even had a workout room and pool. So, that was a pretty good recommendation for Joseph's work.

Then we went on to the school. As soon as the car pulled into the driveway, the rush was on..... kids piling toward us from every direction, hugging, saying hi, etc. Uncle David, Twaha, Joseph, Ezra, Waswa....all so glad to see me.


I had brought the trombone, French horn and 2 trumpets with me, and when Ezra the music teacher saw that, he was overwhelmed and thrilled. He said he would gather some children, the rest of the instruments and play us a tune. So a small herd of children ran up to the office where they keep the instruments and out they came, lining up, tuning up, little and big kids alike. The small child with the drum major baton stood in front, and soon they came to attention and played some march music, then a waltz. It was lovely. I did take some video of that, and also Ezra saying thank you.


Then I toured the clinic. The walls are up. Walls are sheets of plywood tacked to uprights. The reception area is small, but efficient. The two beds are fine....the exam table and other things turned out well, too. Some day we will be able to afford to hire a nurse/technician to manage the clinic.


Joseph and Hanan then showed me where the new dining hall will go. It will be big enough to hold 400 children. Joseph has plans for a driveway and sidewalk that will include the whole campus so children will never again have to walk through the mud to get from here to there.


The new kitchen will be in one corner of the dining hall. It will have three openings for cooking pots....two large and one small, with a chimney. What a HUGE improvement this will be. THANK YOU UGANDAN GLOBAL PROJECT CHILDREN AND TEACHERS FOR RAISING THE MONEY FOR ALL THIS.....!!!!!!


The add-on rooms by the girl's dorm are well under way. The one room where we plan to start the vocational training using computers furnished by Nathan Thomas will be completed soon. It only needs a roof and some tables for the computers.

After getting some more photos and video interviews, Audrey and I were feeling hot and tired. Sorry to be complaining about the heat and humidity......to my friends and family in the north. So we went back to the hotel. Michael's plane was due to come in that evening, so we waited up for him. He arrived around 10pm and had a funny story about getting through customs with hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses. The official wanted him to open all the boxes, and Michael got indignant, said he was a doctor coming to help distribute glasses to AIDS orphans, how could they treat him this way? So he was immediately given an apology and let go to exit the airport. Past experience has taught us that customs officials often take what they want from your suitcase if you let them. Michael was not going to let them.

Today we will have the fun of going to the school and watching the children welcome Michael. And we have lots of planning, talking and strategizing about the future to do with Hanan and Uncle David.

Hello Everyone,

I wish you could see the 'internet cafe'.....you can't possibly imagine what it's like.....small, crowded, slower than molasses in--- well, January. I promise not to complain about the heat here because I got word that there was snow on top of ice at my house in Pittsburgh (thanks Bob for clearing my walks!)

The hotel is now giving us a better breakfast. The first morning was just tea and bread, now we get fruit, too and maybe an egg. Wow.

Because the internet was so slow yesterday and power out, it took longer, so by the time I got back to the hotel Audrey and Hanan were deep in conversation. She was learning about his dream list and plans, and helping him to write some things down. When Michael and I sat down with them we spent a good while outlining some of the things we hope to accomplish on this trip. We have a lot to do....some trivial things but some big things as well.

All important.

Then we drove to the school. Michael got to see the new brick classroom block for the first time and was so impressed! And now the dining hall is in progress! The contractor was on a work site nearby so we called for him to come and show Michael all the plans and explain them. Michael is very thorough, so it took awhile for them to go all around looking and planning everything.

Meanwhile, Audrey wanted to see the inside of the girls' dorm and the current so-called 'kitchen' (open fire with cooking pots, under iron sheets). She couldn't believe what she was seeing in the kitchen area. What a huge difference this new dining hall and kitchen will make for these children. It is stunning.

The student I helped through business college Bryan came to the school again to greet me. He is so pleased with his certificate in electronics; he's looking for a job now, but until he finds one he loves the school and the teachers, so he is volunteering, doing carpentry, wiring, or whatever he can do to help.

When he saw Audrey trying to maneuver the steep, rugged walkway, he immediately went to steady her with his strong but gentle arm. It was a lovely sight, this young African man helping this African American visitor.

After our school visit we left for the hotel, driving a different route from year's past. Apparently the road up that steep hill is now impassable. Former volunteers will remember the terrible ruts, puddles and washed out areas from before. Well now, we don't even drive there. It takes a bit longer for the trip, but the road is a bit better.

While driving, I asked Hanan about his Christmas traditions, because a few weeks ago I got an email from a teacher who asked me about the tradition here. Hanan said they have a special meal, and they try to get each child a new article of clothing. Some folks also decorate a 'tree'. It is often a branch cut from a bush that looks much like a pine tree, but it's a tropical plant.

People put the branch in a vase or stand on Christmas Eve, then decorate it with balloons, cotton and bathroom tissue. They take the tree down on New Year's Day. Not everyone has a tree, of course, just those who can make the effort.

On our ride down the hill, we did have to stop for a herd of cows....the ones with the very long horns.

We went again to the Sahara Market to get more drinking water, snacks, mango drinks and strawberry yogurt. Yummy on a hot day! When the Indian man saw Michael he jumped out from behind the counter to greet him. It's so nice to be remembered and recognized as valued customers. We usually have to stop at the market once a day for something.

Back at the hotel, we waited for Evelyn to arrive. Evelyn is the woman (friend) from here that we met two years ago. She was one of our drivers for a couple of days, and she became a real friend, especially to Michael's family.. She has been keeping in touch with emails and Skype for a long time.

The big news is that ...by the generosity of two anonymous donors....we are able to hire Evelyn to be our ARSF-USA Liaison Officer, working full time here for us. She will oversee all the sponsorship photos and updates, keep records of funds and make progress reports on our projects, help with the craft sales and inventories, send photos and updates of the building projects, and other such matters. She will also help facilitate the live chats we have with Heather Dean's 5th grade class in Florida.

We are extremely pleased that Evelyn is so qualified (bachelors' degree), and has business and computer experience. We are lucky to have her working for us, starting Feb. 1. Michael came with gifts for her....candy and new shoes. If you heard a whoop go up about 12 hours ago, that was Evelyn opening the new shoes, putting them on and dancing around the room. She was thrilled!

I gave Evelyn a new Nikon camera to take photos, and some new business cards that match mine, with same logo and design. Now she feels like a real professional!

We found out later that Evelyn had walked the 3 miles from her home to the hotel to meet with us, poor kid. So we gave her fare to ride a boda boda back home with all her packages and gifts.

By that time, Michael's jet lag was catching up with him and he was nearly falling over, so we all turned it. My legs were very puffed up from the heat, so I was glad to get my feet up, but first I had to spray the floor again (saw another cockroach!) and spray the holes in my mosquito net with repellent, because there were a few mosquitoes flying around.

Then we will go to Hanan's home to see the family and have a home cooked meal, by Eve....Hanan's wife....who he says is the best cook in Uganda!

Hello everyone,


How cool is this...I saw a Morgan Freeman double on my way here.....:-)


Well, I have really good news and really bad news. First the good news.


Uncle David came to our breakfast table yesterday and told us that the results of the P7 national tests came back and that two of our students got above the 90th percentile. They are ecstatic. This is the first time something like this has happened at the school. There was a big story about it in the local papers....but all the papers are gone because the families have bought them up. We're trying to locate a paper for our records!


So David and the teachers are planning a big celebration for Sunday to honor the two students, with a marching parade down through the village where it will be announced that there is a festival at the school. The band will play for the parade. They will announce that anyone who would like to enroll in the day school program will get a special price that day only, and they can also come and meet the mzungus (Americans).


So we are giving them some funds to do it up right, with a rented tent, chairs, etc. The P7s will have some special food and the children will all do a program with singing and dancing. I plan to take some video footage that we can put on the website to highlight the honorees. The whole school is just wild with excitement.


When we got to the school, they were already making preparations, so it should be something really special.


Now for the bad news.....really bad news. The Unitarian pastor David Kato from Kampala, the one who was spearheading the LBGT movement here in Uganda was murdered. Some people came to his home and killed him, and left him for hours until someone found him and called police. The UN and our UU office at the UN are working with the embassy to investigate. One concern is that David’s records included the contact information for all the others in David's group. It is a terrible situation.

Some of my church people have been asking why I have not done more to bring the LBGT issue forward in Uganda, and my instinct was correct.....it is too dangerous. We could ride the wave if there was one, but no wave is in sight. I just feel terrible that this has happened. What a brave man. He traveled and spoke widely in the States.


Enough of that for now.


On our way to Kampala from the school we stopped at Ivy's Hotel, to compare prices. The five Star hotel we visited on Thursday is way too expensive, and the Comprehensive where we are is so noisy and sub standard is several ways (lack of regular access to hot water, electricity, food choices, etc.) so we (esp. Audrey) wanted another option if she is to attract some of her friends to this adventure.


Ivy's is about $60 for one person, less for longer stays, and even less for room sharing, up to three in a room, bringing the cost down to about $35 a night. They have a pool and computers there, and it's very clean, western style comfort. It does give us another option for future reference.


After Ivy's we went to the outdoor craft market to shop for items to sell in the States. I had made a list of my preferred items so that Hanan could do the bargaining first before the vendors saw my white face, and then I would come and pick out the colors, etc. It worked great. I'm bringing back fiber hats, woven bowls, cloth batik paintings, necklaces, earrings, hobo bags and --100 bracelets which we are having made to our specifications. They are woven bands accented with a few beads the color of the Ugandan flag (red, yellow and black). Nathan is going to sell them to his friends.


It is so hot, Audrey is really suffering. We had to find some cold drinks but there was no place to sit. It was too much for her, so she went back to sit in the car while Hanan and I did some more shopping. We decided to skip the cultural center for now and go to the super store in Kampala to shop for a memory card for Evelyn's new camera, and ledger book for her.


When we arrived at the shopping center the guards came and opened up all the car doors, inspected our bags, opened the trunk, passed a mirror under the car and finally let us pass. Security is tight nowadays, which we like!


Inside the shopping center there is a coffee shop where Audrey sat with coffee and snacks while the others went into the store. They gave Michael a rough time because he was carrying a shoulder bag....after much fussing; he had to leave it with the guard. I say....huh??? They let me in with my backpack, though.


It turns out they didn't have either item I was shopping for, but they did have ice cream and other special items which we purchased for Hanan's children, since we were on our way to his home for dinner. I paid with my Visa card. The cashier had to fill out some paper work, give everything back to me to take to the Customer Service desk, then the CS guy had to run my card, fill out some more paperwork, check my passport, have me sign my life away, then take all this back to the cashier to get my purchases.

On our way back to the car I spotted a kiosk with info about solar energy which I stopped by to get some pamphlets. Maybe we can get solar to power the computer lab we hope to establish for the vocational school.

We drove on to Hanan's home. There is one hill we pass over where you can see Lake Victoria in the distance. That's where they get their fresh fish, which Hanan said would be on our dinner menu.


On one side of the hill there is a Montessori School, which I noticed last year when I was here. I told Hanan about the value of Montessori and he would like to incorporate some of the principles in his kindergarten class. Hanan said he visited that school and saw all the specialized materials there, thinking that his school cannot afford such things, which is true. But I explained that Montessori is a method more than a specific set of materials, so he is very interested.


When we arrived at Hanan's home the children rushed to greet him....DADDY!!!! His son Hanaeve is now 6, little Renee Waun (yes...she is named after me!) is now 4 and of course, cute as a button, and little Kay (yes, named after volunteer Kay Martin) is almost 2 and very sweet. I have photos to prove it.


I might promise that if you also come to Uganda to volunteer, you might have a child named after you, but Hanan said three children is enough. Sorry.


Eve was wearing her Quest International t-shirt (a project that Pittsburghers will understand) and had big smiles for us.

Dinner was delicious.....fish with vegetable broth/sauce, rice, cabbage cooked with other veggies, Irish potatoes with peanut sauce, sliced avocados and freshly squeezed passion fruit juice to drink (Eve makes the juice, too). Hanan says she is the best cook in Uganda. Yummy!!


After dinner we passed out the gifts we had brought....I gave Hanaeve a softball and dollies to the little girls, and a packet of wrapped Valentine chocolates that had all melted into a lump. Oh well.


We took our annual round of photos, then said our good-byes and headed out. When we got to the edge of Kampala we hit a massive traffic jam, which is not unusual. You just sit and bake in the car while waiting for a break. The windows in the back seat of the car were not working, so we just basted in our own juices for awhile.


Outside there was just the glare of headlights from all types of vehicles large and small, and along the side of the streets were thousands of people moving along in the dark (power outage, of course), so the headlights would illuminate an eerie scene of hordes walking, stopping at kiosks lit here and there with flickering candles, dark people walking along a dark road. Busy busy people, night and day here.


Finally we arrived at the hotel, just about the time Club Velvet was cranking up its special Friday night live entertainment. Extra loud for the weekend! Up go the feet onto a pillow, with mosquito spray close at hand because several had gotten inside my net. One blast with the spray and they're gone, thank goodness.


Today we will help Uncle David with festival preparations, and later Michael, Hanan, Evelyn and I will meet to go over all the details for her new job with us, which starts on Tuesday.



Presidential elections are this month. Along with some local and district offices. Posters and adverts are everywhere. Trucks go by with loud speakers touting the candidates. Free T-shirts from some. President Museveni posters have him pictured in a straw hat which is typical of his region and tribe, so he is catering to that interest group.


There are 8 candidates, which I think is good because when there are only 2, that divides the country and the feelings are strong when one wins in a close race. Hanan thinks Museveni will win again, but by a narrow margin. But that's ok, I think because there won't be any one losing group that's big enough to make trouble.


Well that's enough for today.

Today we will see the big festival at the school. We did manage to get one of the newspapers showing the school's scores. It is a daily national newspaper. I'm bringing it home to scan so we'll have it on the website, too.


We found out the scoring system for those national-level tests given to the outgoing P7 students. They test in four subjects. Ninety percent or higher equals a one, 80% a two, 70% a three, etc. The aggregate score is what they end up with, so getting a 4 is the highest you can get. Two of our students got a 4.....this is why they are so excited. We are SO proud of those students and the others who did well.....and especially Hanan, the teachers and all those sponsors and supporters who help us to keep up the high standards.


Yesterday before going to the school, we had a long talk with our group on setting priorities for the continuing building projects. We have four things on the list: the dining/assembly hall, for which we have funds, the completion of the 2 vocation training buildings, indoor work on some of the buildings that still need plaster and cement floors, and an in-ground water cistern. To complete everything, we still have to raise about $10,000.


Audrey was having a rough time with fatigue and sinus issues, so she stayed at the hotel to rest and read Hanan and advisor Jessie's development plan for the vo-tech school. She also took the book Two Old Women which Carolyn Glass sent along (it's a traveling book....read it, sign it and pass it along.)


At the school, we got to see some of the children practicing their dance movements for the program. I am always amazed at how many rhythmical movements a human body can make....and you see them all here in Africa when people dance. I would sprain something if I tried that, and I'm a good dancer!!


One of the classrooms....the one from last year's P7 had messages hand written in chalk on the brick walls; such as Never forget Rhonda, or Never forget Moses......these children were leaving and wanted to leave their mark. Michael and I discussed how we might provide some means where the departing children could leave a more permanent mark.....something simple that would stay, but not cost too much.


One of my favorite P7s from last year, a girl who has been part of the school for many years, always in the forefront in the singing and dancing programs (and who did a lovely job of playing the part of Rev. Waun in last year's special play and program) was at the school...hopefully to be in Sunday's program. But she fell ill with a fever. I wanted to visit her. Her head had been shaved (I noticed how different she looked......she had always had such lovely braids). Poor thing, she was so sick. We don't know what it is, but she was going to get sponged off to make her feel better. I wish we had a nurse on staff for times like this....so our sick bay would be a real clinic for such times.


On our way back to the hotel we stopped at our favorite Sahara Market for treats. Speaking of treats.....thanks to Carolyn Glass for the chocolate chip cookies, the M&Ms, marshmallows and other things that Africans have never seen before. You are terrific for putting all that good stuff in Michael's suitcase!


I also wanted to mention to NATHAN THOMAS.....thanks for all the shoes you packed in with one of your computer shipments. Hanan was so pleased. He mentioned every pair that you sent, and which child received them. It was a great idea!


Dogs and cats: Dogs in Uganda are SO laid back. They just lay there all day long, panting, sleeping, covered with flies. They never bark or defend their territory or chase after vehicles or other things. They are not happy and playful like the dogs I know in the States. Cats.....we've only seen three. One peeking into the hotel doorway, one across the street, and one hiding among the wares in a street kiosk. The idea of having pets isn't very common here.


Back at the hotel, we had a meeting with Hanan, Evelyn, Michael and me, to go over the working agreement we set out for our team. It is going to be great. Hanan is a big-picture visionary, Evelyn is a detail person. Perfect combination for the jobs they have. It's very exciting to think that we now have a team to handle all aspects of the work. Audrey joined us and just completed reading the vo-tech vision manual that Hanan and Jessie spent about a year developing. (Jessie administrates another vo-tech school in the area, so she will be a big help.)


After talking more about how Evelyn will take the detailed responsibilities of ARSF-USA's projects here in Uganda, this frees Hanan to focus more on the vo-tech. We are delighted to announce that Audrey has agreed to be our volunteer vo-tech coordinator for ARSF-USA in the States. She is passionate about this, and she is the perfect one to do it. It feels like we are now programmed for really big growth.


After much hand-shaking and agreeing, we then entered into a discussion about what is meant by the term African American. Evelyn and Hanan couldn't understand why anyone born in America (such a rich country) would want to be associated with Africa! Audrey and Michael then outlined the whole history from slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and into the present day. It was fascinating to hear them tell all this from their personal perspective, and we all benefited from it.


The noise finally drowned us out. There was a loud soccer game on in the dining area where we were seated, the campaign trucks were going by in the street, the live music was starting up in the stage area behind the hotel, the Club Velvet DJ was warming up. Saturday night in Nateete! Evelyn surprised me by saying she didn't especially notice the noise. She was fascinated that it bothers us westerners so much. Wow!!!


It's obviously a big cultural difference!


After going up to my room, I felt like the Grinch who recited all the noise noise noise noise, and all the contraptions that made noise on Christmas morning. The best thing is to just try to focus on something else, like crossword puzzles or something. Michael brought an IPod that helps him.


There were just a few mosquitoes to spray....Michael borrowed the spray for the little ants all over his room....I think my roach problem is gone.....at least for now.


It was a long, noisy night!

Hello Everyone,


What a day we had yesterday at the school. At 11am Evelyn arrived at the hotel to go with us. We thought we would be leaving, but Hanan had not yet arrived with Charles, our driver to take us to the school. I used my African cell phone to call him, and he said to wait until around 1pm. We are on African time, you see.


So meanwhile, Audrey and I sat and had a lovely talk with Evelyn who had a million questions about the U.S. She was extremely surprised at the distances between regions, climates and cities, and beyond that, the differences in the cost of living between parts of the country. She had no idea! We told her how much it costs to live in the States and she almost fell off her chair. Here you pay about $200 for a humble home, and then you have to share. And it doesn't have running water or a toilet, except for a common pit at the end of the row.


At 2pm, Charles arrived with the car, so we arrived at the school just after the band had made its way down through the village. We were sequestered away in the clinic, because we were the special guests and Hanan wanted us to make a grand entrance with a fanfare from the band.


Meanwhile the campus looked very festive indeed. There were three big tents pitched on our newly purchased playground, one for the village guests, one for the school children and teachers, one for the performers. People had been gathering since about noon, so by the time we started there were probably 300 people, including the children. Uncle David had planned everything so well, and something that was really important to him was being able to serve a nice lunch to all our guests. So while we sat in the clinic and watched through the window, the children went to one guest after the other presenting them with a plastic bowl of rice (a luxury) and some meaty beef bones. Later, everyone would be given a new bottle of drinking water.


The children brought the same thing to us, kneeling on the floor in front of us to present the food, as they always do. Evelyn ate with her fingers, as did all the guests. It is their way. Audrey carried a fork in her pack, and I a spoon. We are wimps....what can I say?


Some of the people there were very dressed up, with women wearing the traditional gomas.....Ugandan wrapped dress with high pitched sleeves and wide sash, some wore other fancy clothes. There were men in suits and ties. Uncle David wore the new shirt and tie that Michael gave him the other day. He looked so proud!


Soon it was time for us to make our grand entrance. The band lined up (most of the band members were hired from the village, because our children's band isn't able to play well enough for things like this). But Bryan was helping out with the new slide trombone (thank you Lynn) and Ezra played the new trumpet (thank you Sara).


The band revved up a fanfare and out we came to our honored seats in the front row, in the shade, thank goodness. We all stood for the Ugandan national anthem, then the MC announced the program. The school choir filed in and sang three wonderful songs with great movements. Then a young man who had attended the school years ago came all dressed in a 3 piece suit and told how he was so grateful for the school. He then sang a beautiful song. It was great.


Then followed more choir songs and dances and speeches. Hanan then took the stage and talked about how special this day was, with the new buildings, all that the sponsors and supporters had done for the school, and how that all helped to create a place for really good education. This is why we had two students who got the highest scores on the national tests for P7. Then he introduced me.


I went forward and gave my greetings, first in Luganda; (just the few words I know) then brought praise from the States and around the world for all that is happening at the school. I told about how when I first went there, they had temporary buildings made of scrap lumber and papyrus and bamboo, now they have all these wonderful structures....office, media center, clinic, classroom block, dormitories, and coming soon....ta da....the new dining hall and kitchen. Everyone applauded loudly. Hanan translated everything I said.


Then I introduced Audrey who spoke her thanks and told about her interest in helping with the vo-tech, and she introduced Michael who talked about our sponsorship program and then he introduced Evelyn....who was at that moment helping to video everything!


After that it was time for the P7 graduates to come forward to receive their certificates. The honorees were first, and it was so nice to see mothers and fathers of children with families, come forward with pride to also shake our hands. I personally presented all 30 certificates. It was awesome.


Then the children's choir did an amazing song and dance. It was so good that one woman called out...she would give them 10,000 shillings if they would do that again. Then someone else called out with 5000, and then Uncle David started walking around as people gave him more and more shillings. Michael and I got caught up in the fun and each chipped in 20,000 (about $10).......so when the kids did the number again, they really threw themselves into it. It was really really fun!


The finale was a traditional dance where the girls wore their native costumes with feathers and fur on their back sides and it was accompanied by a drumming group of several music teachers. Wow. Even Victo was there. She must be feeling better today or she never could have danced like that. It is extremely strenuous.


Meanwhile, throughout the whole afternoon, little children from the village had gathered around the fringes, doing their bit to dance along with the music, and playing with things like a discarded bicycle tire that could be used like a hula hoop. We got some great candid photos of them.


We left just as the sun was setting. There's really no "sunset" time in Uganda. Because we are right on the equator, the sun just goes "plunk" out of sight around 7:15pm. That’s it.


When we got back to the hotel, tired and happily exhausted, the hotel dining area was filled to capacity except for the one table that was out of view of the TV. Everyone was watching football (you would say soccer). It felt good to sit with cold drinks, chapatti from the street vendor outside, French fries and a happy review of the day. There was a wedding going on outside near the stage area. Several white tents set up, music and dancing. We thought it would be over soon, but it actually lasted....I mean the music played loudly until 4 in the morning.


One good thing, though...Club Velvet is closed on Sunday!


Note to Lisa: I'll find out today about the cost of a nurse.


Note to NON VEGETARIAN friends. Chickens. If you hear a lot of squawking just look for chickens on a motorcycle. Yes, chickens on a motorcycle. They take 12 chickens and make a six-pack out of them by tying their ankles together in groups of 6. Then they take about 4 of those six-packs (48 chickens all tied together) and throw them like saddle bags over the back, seat and front of a motorcycle for that long, last ride. Needless to say, the chickens don't like being tied together and once in awhile one will get really mad and active and start flapping its wings and pecking the others. I'm glad I'm a vegetarian.


Enough for now. Today we will be trying to do a live chat with Heather Dean's 5th grade class in Florida. Hopefully the electricity will hold up. (I had to wait 30 minutes just now for the grid to kick in.)

HELLO Everyone,

I'm back at the computer today because we will be on the road tomorrow at the usual internet time, doing lots of errands in Kampala, such things as the office of deeds, NGO office, etc.

We spent most of the day at the hotel, working with Hanan on plans, charts, understanding one another's goals and expectations. It was very productive.

This afternoon we had a live chat scheduled with Heather Dean's class in Florida. They use a program called Safari Live, which must require a very large bandwidth, because it is always a big challenge to get and stay connected. At first Hanan and the 4 children arrived at the hotel, thinking that the electricity is more reliable there. But the problem turned out to be Hanan's computer. It just wouldn't boot up!

So we led the children, like duckies in a row....down the way and up the hill to the internet cafe. We logged on ok, but then we had a terrible time accessing the Safari website. Once we were in, but somehow it was the wrong link, because I was texting Carolyn back home (she was our go-between for the chat) to tell her we were there waiting. It turns out she in Pittsburgh and the class in Florida were in another chat room waiting for us.

Finally we got the right link and entered the room. But then, we kept getting an error message, "authentication denied". This happened over and over again, so we kept refreshing the page, and even logging out and back in. Finally we connected and a little cheer went up.

We discovered that after tying something into the chat box and hitting enter, it takes about 90 seconds for it to appear in the sent box. One of our students asked a question about the weather in Florida and the answer came back "in the 70s". Of course, then we had to explain to our children that this was Fahrenheit, not Celsius, so we weren't sure what the temp was in their understanding.

After a few minutes, Carolyn's video box appeared and we were able to see the Glass children Aaron, David and Mikey. That was fun. We could also see a few of the Florida children. Unfortunately, the cafe computers don't have web cams, so we couldn't do that, but it seems that Safari Live is just too much for the systems here, and it crashed totally.

Because we had about 20 more minutes of time with our children, we visited the ARSF-USA website and they were very excited to see their school and lots of photos of their friends. That was really fun.

In the last few minutes, I opened Word and had them each type their name on the page. They liked that.

After that we scampered back to the hotel where Michael and Audrey were waiting for us. Michael was a bit disappointed that he wasn't with me to see his kids online. Oh well!!

We spent a few moments talking with Hanan about the computer issues with his laptop and the others at the school, while the children munched happily on some M&Ms from Michael. He is the hero.

Then away they went.

The air is extremely humid, although cloudy, and we were hearing loud thunderclaps in the distance. No sign of rain yet, though. I don't like the rain here because it turns everything into red sticky mud. That's why we want to put sidewalks all around the perimeter of the school.

Tomorrow we are busy all day, so my next update will be on Wednesday.

Hello Everyone,


It rained hard and heavy on Monday night, with thunder and all, and did cool things down, at least for awhile. I still have to douse myself with talcum powder to keep from sticking to myself all night, though! The hygiene routines are very different here because of the heat and penetrating dust. Talc, mosquito spray, sunscreen, decongestants, it's all very taxing on the old body!!! Audrey has been suffering with dust in her lungs, but is taking antibiotics for the cough. It's loosening now. Evelyn told is that she doesn't understand our longing for hot showers. She said she would feel like she had a fever if she stood under hot water! Cultural differences are quite amazing.


We divided into two groups for the day's activities. Michael, Evelyn and Uncle David spent the morning talking about finances and school administration. Audrey, Hanan and I drove to Kampala to the non-profit (NGO) office to renew our non profit certificate, then to the land office to check on the titles to our land. We discovered that the office is so backed up that we will still have to wait. This one person in this one office has the final say and authority over all land titles in Uganda, a country of 30 million people. No wonder every desk, cabinet and table was piled high with folders of paperwork!


We did contact the attorney that handled our land sales and he said he would try to expedite the titles so we could have them within 60 days, but it might require a bribe. Uganda is a country of bribes. When speaking to someone you are negotiating with, if that person says "If you speak the language of Kampala I could help you", that means, I will take a bribe to expedite the process. This is Uganda.


We learned that there are two types of land ownership in Uganda: land under the authority of the traditional kings, of which there are several in Uganda, and land under the authority of the elected government. People who buy king's land are never given a title so they are never quite sure if or what they own. Purchases of government authorized land must have signatures from every level of government beginning with the local magistrate, but they also get a title at the end. That's what we are waiting for.

The city center of Kampala is so interesting. It is a bustling city with lots of traffic, businesses, banks galore, hotels, insurance companies-- parking spaces, however are very difficult to find. We had to leave Charles in the car while we did our errands and stopped for lunch.


When I carried lunch down to Charles, he was walking in a nearby park occupied by dozens of marabou storks. Several of the storks were standing around on the ground with hunched shoulders watching the passersby, and the surrounding trees were just full of stork families in huge nests. Some were feeding their fluffy white young. One tree had 9 nests in it! So cute.


On our way back to the hotel we passed by a huge crowd of shouting people. We worried, thinking there was the beginning of a riot, but it turned out to be a group of boda drivers chasing a man across a field. Hanan and Charles were laughing. They told us that sometimes one of the drivers might need a bath so bad that the others strip off his clothes, chase him down, dunk him in a water source and scrub him all over. This man was running really fast but the others were gaining on him, and the gathered crowd was cheering them along. Hanan said this happens from time to time. Boda drivers have to have standards, too, apparently. Although here in Uganda a person would have to smell REALLY bad for the bath ritual to occur, I think. Too funny.


We were glad to get back for cold drinks at the hotel. While we completed some of the paperwork required for the NGO renewal, I was pleasantly surprised when my cell phone rang and it was Ssebunya Kizza, the friend I met 2 years ago by offering him my leftover computer time at the internet cafe, and by showing him some more computer skills.


We had kept in touch so that last year he came to help us connect with the Ugandan health services, because that is his work. I was glad to hear from him, and to know that he still had my African phone number! I invited him to come to the hotel to join us and to talk more about possibilities for the school. He said he would make some phone calls for us and try to follow up on plans we made last year to have all the school children tested and treated for HIV.


We are all so impressed by Ssebunya. He is dynamic, straightforward and well connected to so many helpful networks. It was a wonderful synchronicity to find such a friend here in Uganda.


Next we'll be doing some bank errands involving a new account here, with signature cards, etc. for an account from which checks can be written. This is good because until now, Hanan has had to go to the bank and withdraw cash, which is not safe to carry around. This will be much better for paying bills, etc.



Pastor Jamadi whom I've met and talked with is one of Hanan's advisors. The church isn't far from the hotel. The pastor started with a sweet potato field, and 12 people besides himself and his wife. Now there are 7000 members, 4 services every Sunday and a 4 story beautiful church building with a ceramic tile roof which can be seen towering over the other shops, homes and Club Velvet.


One year I attended a service with Hanan and volunteer Kay. It was extremely lively with music groups on stage, preacher and translator speaking side by side. Audrey plans to attend this Sunday. My advice: be prepared to be called up on stage to speak, as I was.


Note to Nathan--Hanan used his flash modem on one of the PCs you sent and was able to connect to the internet right away. YAY. We'll use that computer for the chat with Florida tomorrow.


Today is Hanan's 33rd birthday. Imagine accomplishing all he has done at such an early age. He was 24 when I first met him!


Enough for now.

Hello Everyone,


I'm sending twice today because tomorrow we are leaving the hotel at 9am to do more errands. If we thought we had lots of red tape getting things done where we live, try Uganda some time! Almost everything requires an initial stop at the local magistrate's office for a letter and signature, then two or three passport photos, a government issued ID and other registration forms. We are trying to change our current bank account from 2 signatures to 3 different ones. What a hassle, especially when they want things done in a particular order.


But we are getting there! On our way through Kampala we dropped Audrey off at the vocational school where our friend Jessie works, so she could tour the school, observe and get ideas for our own vocation training center. Jessie will be working with us as an advisor to Hanan as we develop Trinity Vocational Training Institute. When we went back to pick her up she was full of stories and ideas. We will reconnect with Jessie later.


Then we went on to a small hotel recommended by Evelyn, called Manhattan hotel, in an area called Mengo, named after the white people who colonized the area a long time ago. The natives would refer to the area where the 'men go'. It turned out to be a marvelous place.....on a hill with grass and trees, no night clubs or traffic nearby, no flights of steps to climb.....the rooms are clean and have great bathrooms. Audrey was thrilled. She wants to bring two people with her again in the summer, so this is where she will stay. It's the same price as our current hotel, so much cheaper than Ivy's.


They also have a restaurant at Manhattan, so we ordered up some lunch. Audrey said these were the best French fries (that's 'chips' for my Aussie friends) that she has had so far in Uganda, and we've had plenty! The food is great, the atmosphere very lovely, and it is run by some really nice local women.


So anyone thinking of making the trip with (or without) me sometime, this is where we will be staying from now on.

Tomorrow after finishing up our bank and NGO errands, we will go to the school and begin testing the children's eyes for glasses. Michael brought about 300 pairs, so it will probably take a few days to do all the tests.


Meanwhile, there is a charcoal fire outside of the internet cafe that is grilling something we don't recognize, so Michael and I agreed that we should probably not try it!


More later.....probably tomorrow afternoon.

Hello Everyone,


I was confused yesterday and entitled my blog Tuesday afternoon, when it was, in fact Wed. afternoon. It's easy to lose track of time here without the usual routine.


Today is Thursday. We dropped Michael and Audrey off at the school. Michael started doing the eye testing for the children and staff; Audrey wanted to sit in on the P7 class to see who they are and what their transition will be like after they leave the school.


Then Hanan, Uncle David and I went on to the local magistrate, called LC1. This is the officer in charge of the local zone or village. He is the one who approves all legal transactions in his village. He is also the one you need to write a letter of introduction to institutions that require you to prove your identification. In that regard, he acts like a notary public.


The next level up is LC2 or the Parish; then LC3, or the district. Each one has an officer who checks IDs and makes things legal.

Evelyn joined us there too, because her signature will now be on the bank account, along with Hanan's and Uncle David's. She had brought her passport photos, but forgot her ID, so had to take a boda back to her home to get it.


Meanwhile, we waited while the LC1 typed up the letter inside his home. We waited in an area with some chairs, an old table piled high with dusty files and documents, a half consumed branch of yellow bananas and a rack of eggs on the floor. Chickens walked freely in and out.


It took about an hour to get our letter of introduction. Then we left for Kampala, to the main branch of the Post Bank. There, we had to wait with a lot of other people for the woman who helped us yesterday. When it was our turn, we came to her desk and presented all our documents, photos, passports, letters, etc. The woman then had a pile of papers that she had to fill out by hand. In my country we have computers to do all that, but given the unreliability of electricity, perhaps hand writing everything is better. By the time she had made photocopies of everything and we left the bank and got back to the school, over 4 hours had gone by.


The traffic is terrible in Kampala. You just can't imagine the swarm of vehicles; trucks, matatus, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, foot traffic, all cramming the streets at the same time. At intersections, it's every man for himself, because there aren't many traffic signals. Sometimes there are traffic cops with whistles, but they aren't very effective and people often ignore them anyway. With the heat, dust, noise and slow movement, it's very taxing. Uncle David kept fretting that he should be at school!


With me, the only Mzungu in the car, in the front seat, three Ugandans in the back and one driving, we got into a fun discussion about sounds that we make when we agree with someone. In my language and culture we say "ah" or "oh" or "uh huh", etc. In Luganda they say "'''mmmmh!" or "enh!" (a nasal eh). When I imitated them they all thought it was really funny. We all laughed as I imitated them and they imitated me.


Back at school, we found Audrey, ready to go back to the hotel. She had observed the Social Studies class for P7; wrote down all their names and ages so she can follow them up. There are currently 33 kids in there, and there will be more when all the children arrive. They are ages 11-16. Some kids start school late because they can't afford school, but the other kids don't make fun of them.


Soon Uncle David came out of the clinic wearing a new pair of glasses--reading glasses. He didn't know he needed them until Michael tested him. He was extremely pleased to have the new glasses. "Enh"!!!!


We were scheduled to have a live chat at 4:30pm Uganda time but the power had been out all day, so we couldn't even get online. That's the way things are here sometimes!


On our way back to the hotel, near the big bakery, we saw a crowd of several thousand people gathered for a political rally. There were five candidates speaking, all in the same party. We have also been passing many places where people are registering to vote (the election is Feb. 18). We heard on the car radio that many registrations don't get processed because people don't have the proper ID.



People don't have pets here. The dogs and cats we see here are wild. But they wander to places where they find food and shelter. People don't walk them or play with them or cuddle them. They often don't have enough food for themselves, certainly not for a pet. Evelyn was amazed that Americans have such lively, intimate relationships with their pets, and that we have so many kinds of pets. She can't believe that people buy clothes, toys, etc. for their pets, and that they take sick pets to the vet. Dogs are "taught" not to bark by throwing stones at them when they bark.



Good leather shoes are the most desirable. Cheap Chinese-made shoes are flooding the market, but people here would rather buy used good leather shoes than the cheap ones, because they last longer and protect their feet better.

Tomorrow we go to the craft market again to get the rest of our craft inventory for the next year. Evelyn will be able to help us get more crafts if we run out before the Christmas shopping season in November.


Enough for now.

Love to all,

Hello Everyone,


Today was a very full day (well, aren't they all here in Uganda??) Evelyn met us at the hotel, so she went with Michael and me to do errands in Kampala (AKA Stork City). Audrey stayed behind to rest.


We had to go to the main Barclay's Bank on Kampala Road in the City Center to try to get Michael's Visa card to work. Here, the Visa cards are the best ones. Not many banks or ATMs honor MasterCard debit cards. But it is still the best way to get cash in Ugandan shillings. Today the exchange rate was 2130 to one dollar, but unfortunately, Barclays charges $25 per transaction!!! EEK.


After some success at the bank, we set out to get an internet modem for Evelyn to use to communicate with us. We got her a 3G package. Next time I come to Uganda I will bring my own laptop and use her modem, which will mean I won't have to go to the internet cafe to connect to the internet. YAY. We just have to keep up her monthly subscription.


We did some other shopping, then headed over to the craft market. Today was so extremely hot, it was quite exhausting walking around the market bargaining for prices. It really is very tiring. We were lucky to have Evelyn with us. She doesn't take any nonsense from the sellers and always gets the very best prices. I purchased lots of necklaces, earrings, picture frames, hobo bags, pencil holders, etc. We can sell them in the States for very good prices.


After almost crawling on the ground from the heat, we got back to the car and stumbled through the horrendous traffic back to the hotel. Evelyn wondered how we would explain this kind of traffic experience to our friends back home, and we said it was impossible. It's a five senses thing....sights, sounds, smells, touches, tastes.. all so different. Charles is a very good driver, how he weaves in and out and gets sideswiped by bodas, matatus and cars. Amazing.


There are election posters literally everywhere........hundreds of thousands of them. They will just stay plastered all over the buildings, fences and walls for years after the election, until they get covered by the next election in 5 years. Evelyn said women vote for Museveni because they think he is handsome!


Most of the political parties are tribal, so all the candidates from the same party are from the same tribe. That's why the aftermath of elections in Africa is tribal conflict.


When we got back to the hotel, we were very surprised to learn what Audrey had done today. She said she was going to rest, but in fact, she went out to the front of the hotel, found a boda driver who could speak good English, and hired him to just drive her around for an hour.


Now you have to know that Audrey is a very big lady. She had to have help getting on and off the boda from several men. But once she got going, she said everybody just stood there and cheered and clapped as she disappeared down the road. And did she like it? She just laughs right out loud.......she LOVED IT.....!!!!


It was a riot listening to her talk about it as we shared stories from the day and "took tea" together at the hotel.


Tomorrow we go to the Bujagali Falls (Nile River). We are all really looking forward to that.


Ssebunya came to the hotel the other night after spending his entire day making phone calls on our behalf, and making contact with all sorts of agencies and programs that can help the school.


Ssebunya had three pages of his notebook filled with helpful notes about all his research for us. We will bring him along on our trip tomorrow so we'll have more time to talk about these things.


THIS NEXT PART IS RATED R (adult supervision required)

We got on the topic of sex education in Uganda. He said much more is needed. Children talk about and have questions about "playing sex". He told the story of one girl, age 10, whose mother had given her the fairy tale version of how babies are born. When this girl was overheard at her school telling another child this version in her ignorance, one of the male staff (a guard, I think Ssebunya said) decided to show the girl first hand how babies are made. So he entered a sexual relationship with her for three years, until she got pregnant. The girl's mother found out too late and was very upset. But this shows the importance of sex education at home and at school.


CONDOMS: Ssebunya said that in Uganda, prostitutes are the ones who are diligent about using condoms, so their use is associated with prostitution. The result is that when a woman wants to suggest that her partner use a condom, he accuses her of being a prostitute, thereby embarrassing her. Many women will just skip asking their partner about using a condom to avoid being so embarrassed, and to get the man to be intimate with her.


This is one reason why AIDS has been such a problem, although where years ago the infection rate here was over 30%, it is now about 6%, so the country has been really working on solving the AIDS problem.


Enough for now.


Tomorrow we will be gone the entire day.......having a much needed day off in the cool of the countryside!

Hello Everyone,


First, my condolences to my friends who are Steelers fans. Maybe next year!


Saturday we went to the Nile River! Friday night we didn't get any sleep because the noise was really REALLY bad all night long, but we were still ready for an adventure! The matatu arrived at the hotel at 8:30am, and even Hanan was here on time. He was honoring American time, which made us all smile. Soon Ssebunya arrived, then a new friend Patrick, a Kenyan whom Audrey had met the evening before at the hotel. Patrick works in catering. He, Ssebunya and Audrey talked that evening for a long time about creating a conference when she returns in June, where women would come and talk about empowerment. Ssebunya would help to get the word out, Patrick will provide the food. So Audrey invited Patrick to join us on our day trip.


Patrick is a very wonderful young man and has lots of stories to tell about his homeland and his work here in Uganda.

After Uncle David got there, everyone had arrived except Evelyn. I have to admit to being a bit cranky for lack of sleep, so I couldn't understand why it was then almost 10am and she wasn't there yet. Soon she arrived. She had gone to the doctor the night before because she had aching joints and muscles and was very tired (and not just from running all over Kampala with us the day before). The doctor did a blood test and found that she has malaria. So she had to get meds, and now here she was....tired and achy, but still feeling the need to come with us. Michael went to his room to get a pillow so she could lie down on the back row of seats, and she had a shawl to cover up.


Hanan and his family were not able to join us because they are "shifting".....moving....from one home to another. They were living way too far from the school, and it was too expensive. So they will move closer.


Our driver was Joshua, and he likes to drive fast. He didn't pay as much attention to the speed bumps as Charles does. So we hit most of them at a good speed. The road bumps in Uganda fascinate me. Most of the roads are so bad anyway, with huge bumps of dirt everywhere. Why do they even need speed bumps? But on the more major roads they have them. Some you almost have to stop to creep over them. Others, you have to scrape the bottom of your vehicle to get over. Sometimes the driver has to swerve was around for the least impact, sometimes right into oncoming traffic. But they are creeping as well. Charles creeps. Joshua rattles over. I imagine it was not very restful for Evelyn in the back seat!


As we left the Kampala area, I compare the ride to leaving the anthill. An anthill is just teeming with activity and so is the Kampala area. As we went further into the countryside, the crowds decreased as we headed into vast areas of green plantations of tea, sugar cane, papyrus, sweet potatoes, bananas, peanuts, corn, jackfruit, pineapples, etc. The wetlands that we passed through were very fertile. Lots of people working in the fields and marshes.


We began seeing villages of huts constructed with mud. They used a double row of timber poles for each wall, then pack the inside with mud. Add a thatched roof, and voila....a home. Some of them were even whitewashed. We passed by the huge soccer stadium: The Nelson Mandela National Stadium, which seats 70,000 people. We also began seeing big factories built in the wetlands. There was Coca Cola which provides the inventory for the whole of East Africa. It bothered Ssebunya to see big foreign factories using up wetlands....farmlands...for their own benefit. There were Chinese factories, too.


By the way, the Coca Cola doesn't taste at all like the Coke back home, says Audrey after tasting some here.


While we drove, Ssebunya explained many traditions in Ugandan culture. He said that school children are used to eating the maize everyday, and they have matouke at home (steamed green bananas) with peanut sauce. He said most of the vegetables grown on big farms are exported for that reason!!


We came to a vendor area....where people in blue aprons and caps from food stalls were selling fruits, cold drinks, skewered beef, chicken legs on a stick, etc. We slowed down and coasted through the area so Audrey could see it, but then we took off fast because we were being descended upon by a couple dozen vendors pushing their products through our open windows. I remember last time, having at least 10 chicken-on-a-stick things in my face. We continued on down the road.


The road out that way was very good. Ssebunya explained that because there is oil further out in that region, the foreign companies who are buying the oil land have to have good roads to get there. That's why the roads are really good in that area.


I kept looking to see a crested crane in the fields, but not this time. Crested crane is the symbol of Uganda. It is found on their flag, and their national football team is called the Cranes. The bird stands almost 5 feet tall, has sleek gray feathers, a stately long neck and large beak and a gorgeous tufted crest on its head. I saw one last time I passed through this area.


We finally came to the Nile River where the main power plant is situated. Ironically, Uganda sells power to Kenya much cheaper than the Ugandans pay for their own generated power!


When we arrived at the Bujagali Falls park area, the guard came out to count heads. Because I was the only one with a white face, I had to pay the Mzungu price, and all the rest got by as native Ugandans....much cheaper! The park is beautiful, as always, but you can tell they are not maintaining it anymore, because within the next year it will all be under water, as the new dam down river will flood the entire area, including two villages, some restaurants and tourist places. All the islands in the class 5, 6, and 7 rapids area will also be covered up, along with the falls.


Feeling road weary, our little group settled at a table and ordered up drinks and lunch. Almost everyone ordered the fish and chips....the whole fish, done quite elegantly. Evelyn ordered steak, but it turned out to be tough, so I offered to give her the head from my fish, which is a delicacy here. She was grateful. So I sawed away with my knife to remove the head and managed to tiddley-wink it off my plate where it skidded across the table and fell with a plop onto the dust covered cement floor below. Awwwwwww man!!!!!! No five second rule here! But others were willing to share with Evelyn.


I couldn't eat all my meal, so Patrick and Evelyn helped eat it. Then Evelyn scraped the last bits of her meal and mine onto a plate to have it wrapped to take along. She wondered if that was rude in my culture, and I said no, we do it all the time.


In the midst of all that, Evelyn, Ssebunya and Uncle David got to have a brief meeting about the HIV and health projects that we are lining up for the school. After lunch Evelyn found a quiet place to lie down while Audrey went to sit by the river, and Michael, Patrick, Joshua and I took the boat ride across the river. We passed by one of the villages where many children were skinny dipping and women were washing clothes. We pulled up the boat so we could hike to the top of the hill and see the progress of the new dam. It is almost completed, along with several dozen power towers along the horizon. Soldiers were doing maneuvers on a distant hill near the dam.


Little by little our guide, a boy named Adam told us about the area. He said they will be testing the dam's turbines next week. Our boat took us to one of the islands where we could stand literally beside the white water as it thundered past us. We saw the hut of a witch doctor there, along with a big mountain lizard lumbering through the bush, lots of birds and water hyacinths. There was also a sign that read: TAKE CARE EACH meaning, watch out for each other.


After having our ride and relaxing a bit longer, we all piled back into the matatu and headed back to our hotel, about a 2 hour drive. Along the way, we were stopped by the traffic police who said we were speeding. They also saw a white faced Mzungu in the back. Ssebunya said they were after a bribe (the usual), so he took 10,000 UGX all folded up and negotiated with the office to let us go. Apparently some of these men do this on their time off so they can collect bribes and feed their families.


The money we saved on the park entrance fee was used to pay this bribe, so it all came out even!


As we entered the Kampala area, there were political rallies....a big one for the current President Museveni...thousands of people with their yellow T-shirts, a band playing, speeches, etc...


We did get back to our hotel before dark, so then it was time for the Saturday night battle of the nightclub noise!


We all hope Evelyn is feeling better. We didn't see her yesterday (Sunday) because she is resting, but we did make a trip to the school to go over final details with the contractor.


Our trip to Trinity Campus today is cancelled because Hanan is feeling worse (cold).


Tomorrow is our last full day. So we hope to get some things accomplished today.


Enough for now.

Hello Everyone,


Because we were not able to go to Trinity Campus today, we spent more time at the school. Michael and I set up a big meeting with all the teachers so they could hear first hand from us about the next developments at the school. Every time we mentioned another point, they all applauded. They know that improving the school campus and grounds will attract more parents who can afford to pay for their children's schooling, thereby upgrading the finances and perhaps result in higher wages for the teachers. We hope that, too.


Audrey spent more time in class with the P7s, because that is the group she wants to follow as they prepare to make their transition into vo-tech or secondary school. She just loves being in the classroom. And the children love it, too. They were doing a review today of all their social studies topics.


Uncle David said that, as of today, there are 327 children enrolled in the school. There will be over 400 after they all come back, but because of the upcoming elections, the families are keeping the children at home until after Feb 18. That being the case, they don't want to pay tuition for the interim. They will start paying tuition when they come after the election. David said that parents want to keep their children close if they think there might be trouble around election time.


After spending a few hours at the school, we headed back to the hotel where we met with our new friend Patrick and his colleague Eva from the catering company they both work for. She works in finances. Patrick had a big bandage on his finger from a knife wound he got today while cutting some meat. Ouch!!


Audrey presented to Eva her idea of having a conference for women this summer. We already have the venue offered to us (Hanan's church) and the food (Patrick). Audrey was looking for ways to form a relationship with Eva and Patrick's company to perhaps sponsor some children or provide occasional food for the students. The meeting went well.


Joseph the contractor also came to show us the final work plan. We are shifting priorities a bit, by making sure the classroom block, the boy's dorm and the vo-tech buildings are high on the list of things to be completely up to standards first. Then we will begin work on the dining hall and kitchen.


Ssebunya also stopped by to make sure our plan for tomorrow morning is in place. We will drive to Kampala to pick up the doctor who is able to coordinate HIV testing for the school, bring her to visit the school, then take her back to her office. After that, Audrey and I will head to Lake Victoria for an afternoon by the water before going to the airport to begin our long journey home, so this may well be my last email from Uganda.


Assorted subjects:


Hippos? As we were driving to the Nile, Patrick was looking for hippos in the water. That's what they have in waters of Kenya. None around here. He was eager to know what kinds of animals we have in the States, so I gave him a little lesson in that.

Shoes: Nathan Thomas had packed one shipment of the computers he sent here with used shoes for the children. Today, a little girl named Rachel came and knelt before me and said from the bottom of her heart, thank you so much for my leather shoes. They fit her perfectly and she was SO thrilled with them.


President: Ssebunya's grandfather was one of the Presidents of Uganda. The grandfather's grave is in a beautiful plot with a big headstone outlining the history of his life. Ssebunya is very proud to be the President's grandson and to have that as part of his family story.


Geography: I brought a long a big map of the United States. It has come in handy many times, as our friends have questions about our country, how big it is, what the climates are like, etc. Ssebunya, Patrick, Uncle David, Twaha from the school......all are amazed when we say our country is 5000 kilometers from one side to the other. Uganda is about the size of our state of Indiana. (OK.... I imagine my Aussie friends reading this are saying, so what? because their country is also very big!)


Culture differences: Here one feels the full impact of difference in every aspect. You feel this because we haven't learned what to filter out and what to pay attention to. So everything hits you full force.....the heat, dust, noise, smells, tastes, unusual sights and experiences........It is very fascinating but over time it is very tiring. I think 16 days is just about long enough.


Anyway, we have seen only goodness, generosity, hospitality, friendliness and love from the Ugandan people. I will be back again next January/February. Audrey is returning for a month in June/July. We love the children; what we see; their joy and eagerness for learning. That's what makes it all worth while for all of us.


If anyone would like to come with me or come at a more convenient time for you, please let me know. I would be happy to arrange it. Our new liaison Evelyn will be here to help make the arrangements, and we will be staying in a much more beautiful and QUIET hotel. I'm already looking forward to it!


Thanks for reading. I will have lots of photos to share when I return.


Sending Love,



Bob Rodgers(2010)



Bob RodgersHuman beings are fascinating creatures. We interact with each other, make connections and develop relationships. Each person finding his or her own way to participate in the lives of those close to them, sharing their abilities, skills, thoughts and feelings. Sometimes these interactions are simple, a joke, a story, even a nod. It's these simple interactions that have a "butterfly effect" that lead to great impacts.


One year ago a man walked into an internet cafe, he paid his money to use the computer, sat down and began his task. Having little experience with computers he was soon confused and having trouble. A woman sitting next to him noticed him. She offered assistance, showed him how to log on, set up an email and send it. A connection was made, they exchanged their email addresses and promised to correspond. Over the course of the year they sent a few emails to one another, and one year later having returned to the man's country, the woman was eager to meet her friend and invited him to dinner. The man's name Ssebunya, the woman, Rev. Renee Waun.


That dinner was my first meeting with Ssebunya. A tall fit man with a deep voice. We all exchanged some information about ourselves. It turns out that he is something of a lobbyist, relating to health issues in Uganda. He asked Renee more about her school and her goals and listened intently as she spoke. Ssebunya made fast friends with the group and accompanied us several times on our visits.


A few days ago, Ssebunya called and said he knows someone who may be able to help us and wanted to set up an appointment. Renee agreed and we arranged a meeting.


Today we were standing in front of the Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Waiting with Ssebunya for the contact that he provided. We weren't waiting very long before we were approached by an attractive statuesque woman. She introduced herself as Pauline. I was impressed immediately by her English and was fairly sure that she had studied abroad. She briefly explained the hospital and it's mission, to help HIV infected children with treatment, counseling, and quality of life. She led us through the hospital's waiting room. I was stunned to see that every seat was filled, the room full of children and their families, there were even people sitting on blankets on the floor. As we walked by I saw the children, some were seemingly healthy, sitting in front of the large screen TV provided by the hospital, watching "Stuart Little" Others were more frail, in the advanced stages of AIDS and even some were lying limply in their mother's lap, gasping.


While we stood in the lobby, chatting about the hospital and it's history, a few children wandered over and waved up at me. I waved back and reached my hand out. Some reached back just to touch me, others shook my hand and knelt ( a common custom and a show of respect.) One bright-eyed girl stood with me and held my hand while sucking her thumb.


It is at this point, I regret that I do not have the ability to put into words what exactly was happening to me. I can only say that I was a bit relieved when we moved on to the upstairs board-room because it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain composure.


Once we sat in the boardroom Hanan began to explain the school, his goals and the progress that he's been making. He asked quite bluntly, what services she could provide. We came with a few expectations, we assumed counseling and hoped for testing, but as she spoke out eyes widened and our jaws dropped. I will summarize what this program will do for the 410 students of the ABC Foundation school.

They will send a full team of doctors, nurses, counselors and organizers on site. They will provide pre-counseling, they will test every student with same day results, they will provide updated anti-retroviral medication for the infected children and treatment for their families, they will provide professional and peer counseling not only for the hiv positive children but also for the non-infected ones to help reduce the stigma, they will provide nutritional counselors, they will provide sex education and they will visit the campus monthly to continue the support. All at no cost, ,it is a fully funded program.


We were unable to find a way to show our gratitude enough, we simply applauded. As the meeting concluded we gushed out thanks to Pauline and stood there looking at each other dumbfounded. We turned to Ssebunya and again gushed our thanks for providing this contact and arranging this meeting.


One year ago, a man walked into an internet cafe. The woman sitting next to him could have ignored him, she could have seen him as a stranger, she may have let the cafe administrator help him. She didn't, not because she foresaw the future, not because she expected a show of gratitude. She didn't because it was the right thing to do. She didn't because it was the human thing to do.

Volunteers' Blog: Renee Waun (2010)


Jan 27
Hello Everyone,
Well, we made it to Uganda last night about 2 hours late, after delays in Amsterdam regarding mechanical problems. Hanan came to meet us in a matatu (taxi van) because we were 3 volunteers with 6 fifty pound suitcases, Hanan and the driver.....much too much for a car! It is the same driver who took us to the Nile last year, so those of you who were on that trip know why I was keeping my fingers crossed for a safe trip.


Renee Waun

We arrived at the hotel around midnight, and many of our hotel staff friends were there with big smiles and Ugandan handshakes to greet us. Isaac, Mary, Joseph, and several others, all pitching in to carry our big bags to our rooms. This year we are on the second floor instead of the 4th, so we are glad to not have to lug up too many steps. The rooms on 2 are no less noisy than on 4.....!!! Mine doesn't have a TV....oh well.....I remember how there wasn't much programming anyway. Just for reference, I'm in room number 13. (!!!)


Del, Bob and I had our breakfast of omelet and bread and tea, then struck off for the ATM and the internet cafe. We are in a different internet place. Fewer, older machines, but a nice breeze coming through. It's still morning and already very hot here.

We got through customs last night by keeping our heads low and not making eye contact with the officers, so we passed easily into the green line.


All suitcases arrived ok.....but mine had been rifled through. Hundreds of pens loose among the bandages, socks, ink toner and candy. The plastic bins I had used to protect the microscopes are hopelessly broken, but amazingly, the microscopes seem to be OK. YAY!


After we stop at the Indian grocery to buy water we will head up to the school. We heard that Uncle David (headmaster) is thrilled beyond words about the new buildings. The roofs are not quite completed because the building engineer said you can't build that fast in Uganda for solid construction. You have to let the mortar dry in between section of wall construction or else risk the wall coming down. We had one wall come down early on in the process, so we know that's true.


Hanan did say that in another week the roofs will be ready. Then we can have the dedication ceremony.


After we spend the afternoon at the school we will get ready to visit Hanan's home and family. Some of you know that one of his sisters died recently of HIV. She had kept it secret, so most of her family did not know about the HIV until she died.


Hanan's father is Muslim. Hanan converted to Christianity about 10 years ago, and his father disowned him. It was Hanan's mother who invited his family to the burial, and unfortunately, Hanan's father used the funeral gathering as an opportunity to make a public announcement that Hanan and his family were not welcome in his sight because they are Christians. It made Hanan and his family very sad and embarrassed.


Hanan's children are fine. Hanaeve (oldest, a boy), Renee Waun (second born, a girl) and Rajeve Kay (third born, a girl) will all be at the house tonight along with Eve and Hanan's niece Latifa to greet us as we share gifts and a meal with them. They are very excited.


Well, I'm going to sign off for now. We have a big day ahead of us. Thanks everyone for your good thoughts and prayers for me and the volunteers during this trip.

Jan 28
Hello Everyone,
I'm going to type fast and let this sticky old keyboard do its thing because I didn’t have time to keep backspacing to correct the glitches. Hope you can read it!


Yesterday we visited the school. Hanan took us up through another neighborhood on the way because his family now has a personal business of raising pigs in a nearby neighborhood, and he has to stop by every Wed to pay the caretaker to buy the pig food. The school doesn’t raise pigs any more because the Muslim parents complained about their children being around pigs which is against their religion.


It was fun to see the pigs and to see that some of the old beat up lumber from the razed classroom buildings was used to build pens. a great use of the material!


We got photos of the largest jackfruit tree I’ve ever seen, and a big avocado tree too. Then we took the back roads to the school.

Since I was there last, LOTS of big houses are going up on the hill around the school, making the property values up there go sky high. There is also a factory going in near the school, which will be a bakery, also making the location more desirable.

That's why the property at the school that we want to buy is SO expensive. The owner knows he can get a lot for it, and he knows the school is supported by Americans. The price for the plot that the children are currently using for their playground is going to cost 15,000 dollars! I think that's a priority, but I haven't met with Hanan and David specifically about our plans.

The new buildings look great! The iron sheets on the roof (those that are completed) shine in the sun. The workmen were plastering the walls o the nurse's station building. They wanted to do that yesterday so it would be clean and dry by next week so we volunteers can start painting it white. Right now the room has a big square floor made of cement. Hanan showed us where plywood partitions will go to block of a reception area, a nurse's office and examining room and a sick bay with two beds. We will have to paint and furnish the whole space. It will be great. Hanan says we will have to hire a nurse full time...one who can do blood tests, etc. for the villagers, and charge money to help pay her salary.


He also has an idea for the connecting building beside the girl’s dorm....to put in a computer school for villagers, where a friend of his would program them in the local language of Luganda, so even illiterate people (the ones who can't speak or write English) will be able to learn the computer. It sounds cutting edge to me.


There is still a fair bit of work to be done on the roof of the new building. The building engineer said if you build something fast, it will come down fast, so you have to pace it to make sure the mortar is dry and the walls will stay erect! I believe that!

There are not many children at school right now because the minister of education pushed forward the starting day in the country another week. So we are thinking that tomorrow we will go to the craft market and book stores for library books, Saturday we will go to the Nile and Sunday Hanan and I will spend a lot of time going over sponsorship details and other finances and plans, before the onrush of school work that begins next week. As executive director, he has his hands full once the students begin arriving and registering. This year there will be 410 students.


Then next week will be the time for us volunteers to get busy and paint the nurse's station. Also, we discovered that Bob is a professional dancing instructor, so Uncle David and Hanan would like Bob to teach at least one group of students some steps that they can use in a future school program.


Last evening we drove to Hanan and Eve's new home for dinner with the family. Latifa wasn't there because it is still term break and she is with her own family. But there were two other children visiting. I had brought gifts for them all, but didn't know about the 2 extra children, so I’ll look through the used clothing to find some things for them. But we did have a big bag of chocolate valentine candy that helped in the meantime.


Eve served matouke (steamed green banana), rice, peanut sauce, greens (SALTY) and cooked cabbage and carrots shredded and spiced. Bob and Hanan had bowls with fish in them. Bob didn't eat too much of it. I guess he had been observing some of the meat and other items in the local markets.....hanging in open windows covered with flies, etc. and he lost his appetite. Del and I stuck to the veggies.


Hanan now lives in a nice neighborhood north of Kampala city. For those who were previous volunteers, the new neighborhood is 10 times more upscale than the former places his family has lived. The word squalor comes to mind. The new place is well placed on a hill, behind a tall cement wall, accessed by a big iron door and gate. Two or three families live in the compound, and it seems really safe.


The down side is that it takes Hanan 2 or more hours to get to school in a matatu. A boda boda would be too expensive because of the distance. He hopes that some day he can move closer to the school, but that will have to wait until he feels safer there once again. (He had been getting threats from some bad Nigerian people who were going o rob him and kidnap his daughter Renee for ransom money. The police and people like me advised Hanan to move his family far away from the old neighborhood and not tell anyone where he was going. So far, so good.)


It's HOT here. Eve now has a refrigerator in their 2 room home, to keep the juice cold that she makes to sell at the market. She served us cold passion fruit juice and it was delicious. After the salty meal and the 90 minute ride back to our hotel through massive traffic, we three volunteers headed for the hotel bar where we could get more ice cold drinks.


Last night was the noisiest night I have ever experienced in Uganda. The hotel has a big outdoor stage where live musicians and (*I think comedians.....don't know because I can't understand Lugandan language....but the voice sounded like he was doing a comedy routine with funny voices, etc) plus drummers, singers, etc. were loudly going at it from the time I went up to my room at 10pm until 6 in the morning. The whole night, that plus all the loud street noises and people shouting, singing, whooping, etc. beeping horns, revving motors, etc. was just unbelievable. I envy people who can sleep through stuff like that. I’m feeling really sleep deprived today.......hope I can stay perky all day.


Well, I see that I'm almost out of time so I'll sign off.


There's always something new to see, hear, taste and smell here in Uganda. Dell and Bob are keyed into everything.

Jan 28 Part II
Hello Everyone,
We decided to come to the internet cafe tonight because first thing in the morning, when we usually arrive here, we have an appointment to go with a public medicine doctor to the department of health, to see about getting a license for the Nurse's Station (clinic) at the school. We drove out to Entebbe this afternoon to meet with the kind doctor who advised us in a number of ways. We were filled with questions on how to meet health requirements for our project, so it was a good meeting.


We had gone to the school to meet with the carpenter to finalize the floor plan and figure out other details. He will be putting in a "T" shaped partition of plywood, after the floor is coated with cement. The main door of the room will be just to the right of the "T". As you enter, a receptionist will be seated at a simple wooden table on the right wall, and there will be a door in the base of the "T" that will be the entrance to the nurse's office. The sick bay of two beds will be in the back, above the "T" partition, with a doorway into the bay from both the reception area and the nurse's office, if you can picture that.


The carpenter will be building an exam table topped with a plastic covered mattress, a big desk and chair for the nurse, the reception table with a chair for the receptionist and a bench for a waiting area, two chairs for the sick bay to position beside each bed. We will have to purchase the two beds, plastic covered mattresses, 2 foot lockers for medicines and other sterile supplies, a washstand for purified water to wash hands with bar soap, an electric socket for the 2 microscopes, three fluorescent lights, one for each area, some linoleum for the floor, and a small refrigerator. I think that's it.


The wall plaster looks good and will be ready for us volunteers to paint by next week. It will require 60 liters of paint.


The doctor said there are different classes of licenses, depending on what level of care we want to provide. Hanan said he wants to be able to treat sick children there, and also be able to care for staff and their families, and the families of school children and other villagers. We will need to hire a nurse who also knows how to do lab tests, and a supervising doctor who will come once a week or so. Doctors are allowed to be the supervisor for up to 3 clinics, so the man we met with today said he can help us to identify someone, since he already has 3 clinics. (His clinic today was extremely small...much smaller than the one we are planning.)


So we will probably have to get the lowest level of license, since we won't be doing operations or issuing narcotics, etc.

Tomorrow we will go with the same doctor who will help us get through the process. He is a very nice man and is impressed with our plans.


So we will be going into Kampala for that, and we will have two more errands to do in town: first, to take Hanan's computer into the computer store to find out why his internet connection keeps crashing when we try to do the live chats with Ms. Heather Dean's 5th grade class in Florida. We are scheduled for another chat next Wed so we want to see if there is a bandwidth problem, or a memory problem, or what. We may have to upgrade to a better level of internet. If so, it will cost more, but we really do need to stay more closely connected to Hanan. We would like to have updates at least once every week. He is very willing to do that, provided he doesn't have to spend tons of time just trying to get and stay connected, so I want to start with his internet service to solve the problem.


The other errand is to stop at the craft market as well as the Cultural Center where they sell native crafts. It's a great place to go. The craft market is only open on Fridays.


It is SO HOT here in Uganda. When we make car trips, it's rough because Hanan and the driver sit in the front, and the three volunteers are squashed in the back, and one of the windows does not roll down. Between the heat and the terrible roads which make us crawl at a snail's pace with no breeze to cool us, and the huge bumps that toss us all over the place, the old body gets really stressed.


We are always glad to get out of the car and stretch and feel the air and get a cold drink whenever we can (vendors have sodas to sell, but you have to drink them right down because you can't take the bottle with you. Either that, or pour the soda into your empty water bottle to take along.)


We all had to take photocopies of our passports to the hotel office, because Hanan told us that he got a call from the staff saying that they didn't file our registration information soon enough with the police, so now we have to all provide our photocopies. Del and I already had copies, but Bob had to bring his passport to the internet office to have it scanned.

In about an hour we are meeting back at the hotel dining room to greet a young man that I met last year at the internet cafe. I remember being finished with my emails and still having about 15 minutes left on my computer. This man named Ssebunya was waiting to get online, so I offered him my extra time. This turned into a computer lesson where I was able to show him some things, then we bought more time and I continued the lesson. The outcome was that he asked to be able to email me back in the States, which I agreed to, and we've been communicating since then. He's also figured out Facebook and is one of my FB friends. He doesn't have a profile photo, so I told him I would show him how to put one on his profile. So he is glad about that.


Enough for now. I suppose by tomorrow night I will have interesting things to tell you about our trip to Kampala. There's never a dull moment there! Oh, one more thing......when we were driving all over Entebbe looking for the doctor today, various passersby couldn't give us very clear directions, so Hanan had the driver pull over to a boda boda stand and hired a boda driver to escort us to our destination. We in the back seat were laughing as we followed the boda driver down this road and then the next, saying that this was the Ugandan version of a GPS. We'll have to think of what the "GPS" stands for, however. Certainly not satellite in this case. :-)

Jan 29
Hello Everyone,
I am back to the really sticky keyboard....even worse than the last one, so bear with me.


To catch you up from last night, we met my internet friend Ssebunya at the hotel. I had promised him dinner with us, but as we all got here around 6:30 they said the kitchen was closed!!! But they could fix us fries and drinks. It was fun seeing him again. He came bearing gifts for me that he had had made by crafters. He had had the gifts stored for a few months, waiting for my visit. When I began opening the lovely bag of things, bugs began crawling up and over, and down into the bag. Everything I pulled out ha d to be tapped on the floor to remove the bugs. They were African cockroaches, and it was embarrassing for Ssebunya (and me too). When I opened one particular item I tilted the cover up and saw that it was just FULL of cockroaches....probably the mother lode. I almost lost it....tried not to throw the whole thing into the air. Ssebunya calmly called the waitress over and asked her if she could dispose of the bugs. She took them into the kitchen area. Heaven only knows where the bugs are now.


(But....I did see the mother of all palmetto bugs in the grocery store when I went in there later to buy shampoo to get the red grit out of my hair, and to order a birthday cake for Hanan's birthday next Tuesday.)


Del and I left Bob and Ssebunya talking, having beers and watching the Africa cup on the big dining room TV. She and I were tired, but the boys stayed there until around 11pm.


I was very pleased that the loud music ended around midnight last night....so I GOT SOME SLEEP. YAY.

This morning we got into the SUV with the doctor who was going with us to the Health Ministry’s office to inquire about a license for our new school clinic. The SUV holds 5 people, so with the doctor, we had 6 and Hanan had to sit in the cargo area....bouncing all around back there!


We drove to the same government office building we went to one other year when we met with a district official to report on the progress of our NGO and to thank the officer for helping in that process. This time we had to walk up to the 4th floor to meet with the health officials. On the big lawn in front the staff was setting up four huge tents with chairs, for a lot of women and children who were there with blue papers in their hands. It turns out they were there to apply for assistance for children who have special education needs. Hanan said the politician who invited them is running for office this year and wants a lot more votes for the next election. So that's why he is catering to this group. It sounded so familiar!!


The woman who met with us told us that we need to get the nurse's office/clinic equipped, then her office would come out and inspect us, before granting a license. We asked for the list of requirements and she was very reluctant to give it to us, and when we insisted that we needed to know what was required of us before we asked for the inspection, or even before we furnished the room, she offered to let us copy the 10 page document.


The doctor who accompanied us went down to the first floor and had to wait in line to use the only copy machine in the building, then make the copies. When he returned we owed 5000 UGX for the copies. Hanan said the reason they don't like to let you know what the requirements are is because then, when they come to inspect, they can find something wrong that can be corrected with a bribe. I guess that means we are one step ahead of the game, for the price of some copies. (Although that doesn't guarantee that we still won't fail the inspection and have to come up with a bribe).


When we finished there, we drove into Kampala City to meet with Hanan's friend Fred, the computer expert. We planned to go first to the internet store with Hanan's computer to figure out why it keeps crashing when he tries to access the internet. I was worried that his computer would need to have an overhaul or be replaced or something like that.


HUGE WONDERFUL NEWS:........!!!!!! The problem was not the laptop, it was the size\e of his modem. Imagine Hanan trying to connect at a speed of 64! So we spent about 80 dollars to upgrade and now he has a modem with speed of 268. Fred said Hanan will be able to connect much faster and easier, and even have the video/web cam option that we need for the live chats with Heather Dean's 5th grade class in Florida. Our next scheduled chat with her is next Wed, Feb. 3 at 9am USA time. We'll be eager to see how that goes. And this time I'll be here to see if there are any glitches I should know about.


I am very excited to meet Fred because he is a genius on computers and he is the one who is developing the software to instruct basic computer skills in their native Luganda language. He will translate all the words in the drop down menus for FILE, EDIT, VIEW, HISTORY, etc, plus "password", "user ID", etc. etc. NO ONE else in Uganda has done this, so Fred will be able to sell his program to the public, and use our school to teach people.


Nathan Thomas from Findlay Ohio is working on a plan to send refurbished computers here for us to use in the school. It is very exciting, and I couldn’t' t be more pleased to meet Fred and hear about the plans. The more Hanan continues with this work the more contacts he is making with people like Fred and others who can help us make great progress.


After the modem purchase, we drove to the National Theater's Craft Village, where Bob and Del had fun searching out native crafts. Then we went to the craft market where there are about 60-100 crafters of every medium: beads, wood, cloth, ceramic, stone, paper, etc. I resupplied my craft inventory for sales back in the States. That was fun. Del had Hanan to help her bargain, so she got the best prices. Bob got the next best prices because he knows how to bargain. I got the highest prices because they can see me coming a mile away. So I pay $1.50 per bowl instead of $1.25. I mean, really!!!! I can sell that same bowl for $10 in the States. I paid a fair price at the market and will make a nice profit for the school! Everybody wins.


Bob and I were finished with our shopping about an hour before Del was, so we sat with cold drinks in the shade, then went to the car to wait. After awhile, however, I jumped and scrambled out of the car because my dress and legs were covered with roaches. I guess they live under the seat somewhere. Anyway, it was kind of sickening. I thought it was my skirt tickling my legs, but I was being nibbled by bugs. EWWWWW!!!!!


We got back to the hotel by 5pm while the kitchen was still open, but we found out it didn't make much difference, because the kitchen being open means you can get chips chicken, chips beef or chips fish. None of us eat that anyway....just the chips. So we all had chips again for dinner, this time with chapatti bread.


But the cold drinks and the cool breeze blowing through the dining room was great!


Tomorrow morning we get into our matatu at 8am to leave for the Nile Rover, Bujagali Falls. We can hardly wait because it's been SO DARN HOT. We will be able to put our toes in the water, have a boat ride to the falls, and have a delicious meal. Ssebunya will go with us, and Hanan's whole family, Uncle David, too.


My time is ending. You won't hear from me again until Sunday, if this internet place is open on Sunday. We'll be at the falls ALL DAY.. YAY.


This trip is going so very well. Lots going on and we're making good progress on all fronts.

Jan 31
Hello Everyone,
I think there must be no keyboards here that don't stick...sorry.


Yesterday was a great day. Hanan' s whole family were all ready in the matatu when it arrived in the morning. Uncle David, too, and Ssebunya arrived to come with us. Hanan brought the other 2 children who are staying with them during term break. There is now a new section of road east of Kampala.... NEW ROAD...aka paved!! So the trip didn't take quite as long as in the past. Some road scenes....the field of putrified fish guarded by about 100 vultures, a crested crane looking at me from the edge of the road beside a corn field, the fields of ripening tea, sugar cane, mud huts, villages, etc. Still very hot weather....no rain yet. But that's good because that means fewer mosquitoes.


I told Hanan this was the first year that one o f his kids wasn't sick on the trip (one time 2 of them had malaria), and then he said, well Kay threw up this morning. ( !!!! )


But we had a great, sunny drive into the country. The "rest stop" is a place where a group of vendors are trying to sell bananas, peanuts, chicken on a stick, beef on a stick, cold drinks, etc. When the van pulls into the parking lot, about 3 dozen vendors mob the van, and through every open window there are arms coming in holding the chicken sticks right in your face....all yelling to buy buy buy! Hanan and his family got the chicken (no thanks....glad I'm a vegetarian), others got drinks, bananas, etc. Then Hanan negotiated with the head vendor to just take 20,000 for the whole lot, and please take the chicken sticks out of our faces. Bob noted that the woman outside his window had gotten pushed, sliding her chicken along the side of the van. We were laughing about how many vans who had passed through here now had a stripe of chicken fat drawn along the side.


Our traveling conversation included several interesting topics. We discovered that there are 2 kinds of electrical power service in Uganda....one for ordinary people and one for government and higher class customers. It's the common service that powers out almost every evening. and where I thought all remaining lights were powered by generators, it turns out that it's the second level of service that is still working. It costs more, of course. But Hanan said we should get one line like that into the school, so that when we get the nurse's office set up and we have things to run, like the little refrigerator to keep the medicines, blood samples, etc. we will need to have constant service. I agreed. So we will look into that.


Hanan is eager to set goals. He said he wants everything at the school to be perfect". As good as possible anyway/. And he wants to attract more and more students. Some of the volunteers remember Julius from Jinja whose parents sent him there (sight unseen) because of the school's reputation, but once they actually came there and saw the toppling wooden buildings, they withdrew him, even though our school was always at the top of the list when it comes to district excellence.


Now when parents come, they will see the brick buildings and know that we are measuring up in every way.


We have the new buildings, plus the nurse's clinic plus the planned computer school. It will be great!


We talked in the van about bribes. Street vendors are supposed to have a license because they take business away from shops, the shop owners complain and the police are supposed to remove the vendors, but the vendors just pay bribes to stay. Once in awhile the police act tough and actually remove one or two, but sooner or later, they are back. It's just the culture.

We also talked about dialects, and the different English dialects that make it hard for Ugandan's to understand us. I assured him that we sometimes have trouble understanding each other, depending on what country we are from, or what part of the country.


The topic of zoning came up. I wanted to know how so many homes and businesses and schools, etc could be built seemingly on top of one another (thinking about our school property situation). He said there are no zoning laws. He did say there are certain things that are not allowed to be built around homes, such as certain factories and industries.


I had given Ssebunya a beautiful photo book of Pittsburgh which he had great fun looking at and asking about all the scenes. When he saw the one picture of a snowy landscape, he said he couldn't imagine what that would be like. Do we still go outdoors when it snows like that? He said the photo looked like a "cake"...all covered with white frosting.


It turns out that Ssebunya is a lobbyist!! We finally figured out what he did, based on the description. So how interesting it was to talk with him abut some things. He works in the area of health and welfare, so o f course he was well aware of the bill before parliament to execute gays. We had a good talk about that. I couldn’t quite get where he came out on that. I think he is still doing research. But he felt quite sure that the bill would not pass.


We finally arrived at the Speke Camp at Bujagali Falls. It was beautiful as ever. But it was also sad because the dam at the nearby curve in the river is even now under construction. Soon this whole area will be under water, and many people who work in the tourist industry will be out of work; The rafters, boaters, entertainers, resort owners, cooks, etc. etc. Also, two villages will be under water, and no more washing clothes and swimming in the village areas.


We decided to take the boat ride first, because the chicken on a stick was still digesting. So we all went down to the water’s edge. Ssebunya had never seen such a boat....or the falls, for that matter. He seemed very edgy. He first wanted to make sure we would be wearing life jackets, which we were. However, almost all of them were torn and missing straps and zippers. You had to take the remaining parts of the straps and pull them around to the front to tie. Ssebunya insisted on finding one with the straps intact. He also demanded to know of the boatman if he was sober.


When we go t into the boat he was freaked out by the little stream of water running down the center of the floor, and seeping in through the metal patching strips. He told the man about it, wanting to get everyone bailing the water out, but no one else seemed concerned bout it. I told him this was not unusual for a boat to have a little water in the bottom. in fact, it is the same boat I road in last year. The man just said "African boat!". Ssebunya was not pleased. But we did have a great ride. The trip included a stop on the far side where we could all climb up to the top of the hill and see the dam being constructed. It was clear by the height of the dam that the place where we were standing would be under water one day. I was thinking about all the gorgeous flowering trees and shrubs at Speke, the wildlife and habitats that would be destroyed. Oh well....it's all supposed to be a project that will improve the electrical output.


The trip also included a stop at Sugar Island (also to be submerged one day) to see the class 6 falls up close. It's very beautiful. Some people have been there planting tomato plants.....about a hundred of them all in blossom.


When we returned safely, we all went up to the thatched restaurant/bar and had a feast. Cold drinks for everyone, whatever they wanted from the menu. I brought the van driver down to join us, and he was very pleased by that. All the adults ordered the grilled fish (I had the vegetarian curry), and the food was great! After spending a little more time strolling the grounds, it was time to head back. All of a sudden no one could find 5 year old Hanaeve! We started a search party all along the water’s edge, the falls, the latrine, the hillsides, etc. He was nowhere. Finally Hanan climbed the big hill back up to where the van was parked, and there he was. He went up there for some reason and couldn't find his way back. Thank goodness he was safe!


Our ride back was very tiring. We ran into huge traffic jams all along the way, but our driver decided he could make better time by going along the shoulder (against the law where I live), but actually it probably saved us about 45 minutes. The trade-off was the BUMPS.. OMG...think "playground spring horse ride on steroids". This place is not for the feint of heart. If my lower back needed work before, there is NO question now. Or maybe that was the best thing for my back. (nah) plus it's just exhausting to hang on for dear life and get bumped around like that.


Sometimes people will ask what it takes to come to Africa. I first ask if they are in good health. Walking is not the problem, it's riding. That plus the heat and dust and smog. It takes a toll day after day.


Even the dogs here are lethargic. They just lie there all day panting, sleeping, they never bark--I've never heard an African dog bark--- or chase cars or anything. That says it all.


We finally got home around 8pm, tired and thirsty. Bob and I headed for the cafe, Del for the internet cafe. I just couldn't bear the thought of parking my butt on anything that wasn't soft at that point. These little metal chairs are so very tiny and uncomfortable, and no place to put your knees, and very hot in there. Even with the fan going overhead.


Random thoughts: the other day when we were in Kampala, stuck in traffic, we had the fun of watching a mother stork in her overhead nest, feeding her fuzzy white nestlings. Her big wings arched over them. It was SO SWEET!


Coffins are hand made in shops along the streets. The coffins have windows in them, in the ends and sides. When a person dies of a communicable disease such as Ebola or cholera, people would not want to be exposed to the body, but with the windows, they can still have a "viewing". I don't think they have embalming laws here in Uganda, either.


The hotel worker named Mary, who was a cleaner last year, now works in the kitchen as a cook. She stopped me the other day when she saw a cell phone in my hand. She wanted to borrow it to call her "sister", her friend. I said, ok....and handed it to her. She said she didn't know the number. She wanted to call Nicole (Bob's mother who was a volunteer here last year.) I thought that was sweet. People here who remember Nicole are fascinated that this big handsome, friendly guy named Bob is her son.


And the extraversion must run in the family, because Bob goes around getting everyone's names, making friends, etc. He's great. (Note to Nicole- I love BOBBY! I want him to teach me some dance steps, too.)


Hotel: we had a little time to check out two other hotels further away from the noise. Neither one measured up to the standards of the Comprehensive, where we are now. We counted our blessings; big breezy dining room, friendly staff, stores and internet nearby, mosquito nets on the beds, and in some rooms, TV and fan. Of course that assumes the electricity is working.


Today we are getting ready to meet Hanan at the school. He and David and I plus another board member will be meeting to discuss all sorts of plans and evaluating things. Bob may try to teach some dance steps to the children, Del will help to greet families who are arriving for the beginning of the term. Maybe they will have a chance o walk down to the little open fire bakery, if it's open on Sunday. They would enjoy seeing that.


So....have a great day everyone. More tomorrow

Jan 31, Part II
Hello Again Everyone,
I thought I'd report on our day's activities at the school. We arrived around noon, and we all did different things. Bob found an electrical outlet to play a Michael Jackson CD, so he could teach the kids some dance steps. He had thought they would be dancing outdoors, but they ended up inside the media center. He wanted to say 20 children at a time, but there were at least 40 in there, the last time I checked. Bob was all covered with sweat and the kids were having a blast...gyrating around, crashing into one another, laughing, etc. I think he taught them two or three different dances. They call this “Bob Dancing”.


Del, in the meantime, was having a great time getting to know the girls down in their dorm. She was taking photos, writing down their names and having them say what they wanted to be when they grew up. She had fun doing that.


Meanwhile, I was meeting with Hanan, going over the sponsorship list, making sure we had correct information about names, grades, ages, whether they parents, etc. We were doing that as we waited for Board member Jessie to arrive. We got about half way through the list today. We'll have to do the rest another time.


David joined us and we had a good meeting. We first built the agenda, with everyone's input. We wanted to talk about the building project, the clinic, the computer lab idea, the academic standards, sponsorships and priorities.


We decided that the person we hire to staff the nurse's station/clinic should also be able to do AIDS counseling and testing, as well as STD counseling and other testing. That way, the clinic might become self sustaining if villagers could come and pay for services. I showed Jessie the health requirements we received from the health dept the other day.


David was worried that we still needed to do some things to get the new classrooms ready for the students who are already beginning to arrive for the opening semester. The carpenter was busy putting a ceiling in the clinic, when he could be working on the room partitions in the classroom building. Hanan was just trying to accommodate my request to let the volunteers paint the clinic walls, as something we could do while we are here. But it seems that other things are taking priority right now, and the clinic will probably have to wait until after we leave for home. First things first!! We volunteers are already finding plenty to keep us occupied.


We talked about priorities for the next big projects at the school. We all agreed that the purchase of the adjoining property is critical, and that should be next. David will meet with the owner tomorrow or Tuesday to see if will bring down the price and if he will accept a deposit with payments. It seems that this is not common in Uganda.....they usually have to pay cash, unless they have a loan from the bank. Although, we might qualify for such a loan, I don't know.


Another big priority for 2010 is to explore the setting up of a computer lab, using the computers that we hope to get from Findlay, OH.


For 2010, we think (after we have purchased the adjoining property) that we could build a covered dining shelter for the children. It would go along the edge of the playground. Another goal for 2010 is to begin developing the Vocational Training Center, using the computer lab, and maybe also put a few sewing machines in the other end of the room for sewing lessons. We think if we start small, we can build gradually, adding carpentry, catering, agriculture and other subjects as time goes on. Another possible goal for 2010 is to see about installing solar energy. When Michael was here in November he got a price of $14000 for a solar setup, but I told Hanan that for such big projects, we usually take bids from 3 or 4 companies, and let them know they are bidding against each other, so as to get the best price after all. He likes that and will follow that up eventually.


For 2011 we think we should expand the Vocational Training School to include a Secondary School (grades 8 and up). Right now, students who "graduate" from P7 must move on to another location for vocational training or high school. We would like to offer both options right here, especially because most of our sponsors will probably want to continue to support their students after P7.


Regarding the sponsorships, we certainly do encourage our sponsors to stay with their students after P7, so we must find a way of doing that, because they will be going in all different directions, making it impossible for us to administrate the funding. We still have to figure that out. It would be so much easier if we just had our own post-primary education available right here at the school.


We also brainstormed ways for the school to raise more money on its own. The subject of students concerts came up. They used to have a band that would play while children sang and danced, but now the instruments are all wearing out and they are down to two rather shabby trumpets. Uncle David asked if I thought we could figure out a way of getting a new set of brass instruments for their band, so they could continue to do the fundraising concerts.


New instruments over here are very expensive. For example:
trumpet $615
trombone $920
tuba $2500
French horn $615
bass drum $510
trap set $300
cymbals $150
Sousaphone $5000
drum major baton $60


We Americans were thinking we might find some good used instruments to send over here. Does anyone out there know of any? There might even be a foundation somewhere that collects such instruments to send to places like this. If you have any thoughts, please let me know. It would be a great investment in the fundraising capability of the school.


While we were brainstorming a Wish List, we also added a school van, so children from more affluent villages would be able to be driven to the school, affording more tuition support. The van would also be used for other school related errands and deliveries, which now we must pay for as needed. The van would cost $16,000.


Well, you see it doesn't take much to brainstorm a great Wish List!!


While we were doing that, Bob and Del had an escorted walking tour of Mutundwe by former student Brian, who used to work at the school as a carpenter. He is now in college. I asked him to take Bob and Del down the road to get some cold drinks (Bob was covered with sweat after all that dancing)....and also to visit the local bakery. There, they sell breads and rolls that are cooked over an open fire. The US Health Dept would have a fit if they could see such a place.....dough laying on strips of cardboard on the ground, ashes flying everywhere, barefooted workers walking in and around the dough pans, etc. But I have to say, the final product is quite good.


Bob and Del came back with a bag of mandos (big round fritters) to share.


Well, now I'm going to sign off. The hotel is setting up for another big playoff game tonight, so we want to get some food and vamoose before getting crowded out by the rowdy soccer fans who come to drink and watch the game. Everyone knows Egypt will win, but who knows? Actually I think they've won the African title for as long as the game has been played, but what do I know? Imagine, 43 countries in Africa playing for the ONE team that is called "Africa" in the world cup!! Amazing.


We also saw yesterday where Sabrina Williams won her 5th Australian tennis title in a row, tying with Billy Jean King. Will she play again next year to try to beat her? Probably!


I know nothing about either sport, but while in Africa.....do as the Africans do, I guess.

Feb 1
Hello Everyone,
Well, Egypt won the Africa cup. The score was 0-0 for a long time, and just before the end, Egypt scored. I think the entire region around Kampala sent up a huge cheer. Did you hear it? And then, of course, the partying went on all night long (loud music from every quarter, plus dancing.)


Random thoughts: when we were all riding in the very bouncy matatu the other day, we hit an extra big bump and the center roof brace let loose and came crashing down, knocking a water bottle out Hanan's hand. Thank goodness it didn't hit one of the children full force! So Bob had this great Swiss army knife with him. He flipped the tools up and down until he found the Phillips screw driver, then he and Hanan had do some creative maneuvering while the van was still in motion, to re-install the overhead brace of the van!


The Board member I met yesterday named Jessie is a godsend. She herself runs a vocational school, so she knows all about budgets, work plans, time lines, etc. She said she would personally help Hanan to stay focused and on plan, and when I gave her a big hug, I told her she was my new BFF (translation, Best Friend Forever.)


This morning I walked up to Barclay's bank to make a large withdrawal, to save on transaction fees from the ATM. I was told I would have to go to the main branch on Kampala Rd., so I’ll have to do that later.


Today Hanan and I will meet with the carpenter to see what is still needed to complete the building project. The extra structure we added to the plan added more expenses, so we will be figuring out the time line and work plan for that.


Students will be arriving today in great numbers, with all their gear: footlockers filled with supplies, personal items, etc. They will have mattresses, wash basins, water cans (Gerry cans), etc. Everything must be accounted for and documented. Then names written on everything in big black marker, because all footlockers look pretty much the same.


I will try to work through the rest of the sponsorship list today, too. It takes quite a while to go over each name, checking the spelling, grade, age, sponsor name, whether the child has parents or siblings, etc.

Feb 1, Part II
Hello Everyone,
Well the cafe is full...one computer is down, so the manager let me use his computer, also a sticky keyboard. All keyboards are picking up the red dust and making them sticky.


This morning we went to the school to watch the workmen who were up on the roof, adding the iron sheets to the classroom building. Hanan was giving orders to the ones who would be putting on the plaster on the outside of the building. It will take a crew to complete the work by next week, but it will be done in time for the celebration.


On the way to the school we ran out of gas, and had to back down a very bumpy and steep hill to a place where we could park while the driver took a boda boda to a gas station to get about 2 liters of gas. Because it was taking so long, Bob and Del decided they would be brave and take boda bodas up the rest of the way to the school. I got some great video of them climbing on the motorcycles and zooming up the rough road.


Meanwhile, the children are arriving by every possible means...walking, riding boda bodas, taxis, cars, bicycles, matatus, etc. all weighed down with their footlockers, mattresses and other belongings.


Hanan and I went into town to try to get the bank wire from ESUUC. We found out it is there ok. Also, I did a direct cash withdrawal from the ATM card so we could get some shopping done for the nurse's station.


it took forever at the bank. At the Orient bank the rates are cheaper for withdrawals, but their computer system was down, so we had to go t Barclay’s where the rate is higher. Oh well.


All that took about 2 hours! Then, on the way back to Nateete, we went to an appliance store to look at small refrigerators for the nurse's office. We liked the one that cost about $300.....imagine that.....more expensive than the States for that size. So we went to a used appliance shop with refrigs along the road and on into the store (made of iron sheets, etc.) There we found a used refrig that is big enough for all drugs and blood samples, plus enough freezer space to prepare ice cubes for ice packs. We stopped the car and Hanan had the driver go first to ask the price so they wouldn't see the mzungu (white person) before giving us a price. The price is always higher for mzungus.

(Aside: when we were going to Bujagali Falls Park on Saturday, we had to stop at the entrance to pay park fees. Hanan always tries to tell the guards that we are all Ugandans. Right. We really all LOOK like Ugandans. I had told Hanan that I didn't mind paying the mzungu price, but of course, he tried again to get a discount by saying there were only 2 mzungus on board. Right. We ended up paying the fair price, for 3 mzungus and a whole slew of kids and the adults. I certainly didn't mind, but it was funny to think that Hanan tried to pass us off as native Ugandans!)

Anyway, back to the refrigerator. The driver was the first to ask the price on the apartment sized frig, then Hanan tried to bargain the owner down. Finally they settled on 390,000 UGX (about $200) which was a fair price. So we bought it, and our driver will go later tonight and pick it up.

After returning to the school and seeing the progress of the workmen today (amazing!!!) we all returned to the hotel. Ssebunya met us at dinner to give Del some materials from the ministry of heath to teach the staff tomorrow about hand washing. She was very grateful to get all the information and will be preparing her lesson tonight. We all had chips and some sugar cane that Hanan stopped to give us. Yummy!

So now we are all at the internet cafe catching up.

It really was unbearably hot. But now the sun is going down and the breeze is picking up. Whew.

Hanan and I talked about the value of having a music band at the school. He said that with a band, they could give concerts to earn money, plus the band would be hired to play music at government functions, plus the band would be in parades wearing school T-shirts, drawing attention to the school and possibly getting more students that way. It all sounded really good, so we are hoping to get all the instruments we need. I have heard from at least one person about how we might do that. (thanks David).

Feb 2
Hello Everyone,
This is the worst keyboard gain. Sorry.

We met with Ssebunya last night and he gave Del some materials to use in her presentation today. He had the official program for teaching hand washing, which is what she focused on.

So we left the hotel early to get to the school in time for a 10am presentation to the teachers and staff on hand washing. Del brought in a big can of water, the visual aids from Ssebunya, the pamphlets, some soap, a basin and gauze pads for drying, because we didn't have any towels.

Del did a beautiful job of making her presentation. She used simple words and gestures, and stopped for questions. Then she asked every person to step forward to demonstrate what they learned by washing their own hands. It was great. It became a ritual because before each one started, they gave a little speech about how very grateful they are for all that we are doing, the nurse's station, and especially the new classroom building! Then they would proceed to wash their hands. The first fellow ended up with some red dirt on the gauze, so it became a demonstration of how to make sure our hands are clean before drying them.

All in all, things went really well.

Meanwhile, classes were taking place as more students are arriving, along with the builders and carpenters and plasterers working like mad on the classroom building to get it completed by next week. Hanan assured us that it will be finished, and I have to say, I am amazed at how much they are doing each day.

Now, when you arrive at the school, you don't see the old dilapidated buildings any more, you see the clean lines of the bricks, the pretty metal and glass windows, the prepared place for the cement walkway. It is all very exciting

After Del's lessons, Hanan wanted us to visit two secondary schools, to see if we can form a partnership for the sponsored students who will be moving up to secondary school. There is one nice high school within walking distance of our school, which would make sense for the day students, since they are currently walking to school from the village. we met with Noah the headmaster, a very wise gentleman who has been in education for several decades. He told us that he is the one who taught Idi Amin how to speak English!

Then we drove quite a ways out into the country to visit a school where the headmaster is a friend of Hanan, whom he met at a regional gathering of school directors. Patrick, the headmaster, has a similar outlook and vision as Hanan, that's why they became friends and perhaps partners with the secondary students we may send to them. The school was started in the 40s and went through some bad times, but Patrick has turned things around and the school looks good. It looks like our school might look some day. We were impressed by the pastoral setting, where the garden is full of ripening pumpkin plants and surrounded by a field for cows and goats.

The 5 of us talked about how to follow up, and we will be talking with Carolyn Glass, our sponsorship coordinator to see how to communicate with the sponsors about the future

By then it was time to return to the hotel to pick up the birthday cake for Hanan before driving to his home for a special birthday dinner. The cake was beautifully decorated and said "Happy Birthday Hanan" on top, and was tucked into a cardboard box without a top on it, so when placed into a large plastic bag, the frosting got a bit messed up on the bouncy ride to Hanan's house.

We also took along some more clothing....a dress that would fit Eve, a dress for Halima, a T-Shirt for the other little boy, too because we had nothing for them before. They were very pleased.

When we stopped at the hotel to drop some things off, Bob went up to his room and EVERYTHING was GONE! All his luggage, his clothing, his water and crafts, everything. Even his passport was gone from his secret hiding place. We rushed down to ask Dora the manager what had happened, and she said that the maid thought Bob had asked for a different room, so she shifted everything to the room across the hall. Well, Bob was puzzled, not knowing what he had said to cause this confusion, but very relieved to discover all his things safely transferred over to the new room on the back of the building. It turned out for the best anyway, because we had some rain this afternoon and there was a big puddle of water on the floor of his old room, right where all his things would have been. Whew! Adrenaline was rushing!

When we arrived at Hanan's home, Eve had prepared rolex (no, not watches, but chapatti wrapped around fried egg mixed with onions, tomatoes and carrots), some cooked cabbage and onions, some matouke with peanut sauce and rice. then we had all the children gather around as we sang happy birthday and Hanan cut the cake. He said children don't use the word cake for cake, they call it "happy birthday". The frosting was creamy and not too sweet, and the cake was coarse, probably made of whole flour, maybe some cornmeal, raw sugar and a little allspice. They had enough to share with their neighbors.

Hanan took a moment to check his email while we were there, to see how the new modem was working, and discovered a message from former volunteer Steve, who said he should ask me to explain Groundhog day, since it was also Hanan's birthday. So, I explained it, and we all laughed that that's how we remember what day is Hanan's birthday.

After dinner, baby Kay wouldn’t stop crying.....she had been sleeping and saw the white faces and was afraid. She never did settle down, even after we said good bye and were on our way.

We drove back tot he hotel during a magnificent sunset...wow....Hanan and I talked about the kindergarten class. He knew I had once been a Montessori teacher and so he wanted to know how to incorporate the theory into the school. As we were talking, we passed a sign, not too far from his home, for a Montessori school. I told him he should visit that school some day to get ideas. He probably will.

Before arriving at the hotel, Hanan got out of our car to find a truck to use to pick up the used refrigerator we bought yesterday. He will deliver it tonight. Today, when Del told the staff about the refrigerator, they all sent up a cheer. Actually, they cheered about just about everything, but they really liked the idea of the refrigerator. Now they can make ice packs for injuries, etc.

Well, it has been such a long HOT day....sooo extremely humid. Makes it hard to sleep. Actually I don't mind the cold shower because it feels good!

Feb 3
Hello Everyone,
I get to use the administrator's computer while waiting for another, but you can tell the keyboard is just as bad.


Well, the mystery of why Bob's room got change is solved. Two evenings ago I left a note on the floor in front of Bob's room which said, "Please remember the transformer from your room". He had put the step down transformer that I use to recharge camera batteries in his suitcase when we were dividing up luggage, and now I needed it to charge up some batteries. He gave me the transformer, but left the note on the table in his room. Talk about "lost in translation"....the maid thought he was asking to transfer his room!!! That’s how that happened! We were able to laugh about that this morning.


Bob is looking for a shop that sells black electrical tape because there are several wires at the school that are frayed and have to be twisted together to get current. EEK. (Steve, you remember that from another time, I think.) So he will try to cover the wires. Of course, the current source will be turned off when he does that.


We are thinking we might be able to do some painting today, if the carpenter in the clinic will let us. He still has a grid of scaffolding all across the floor, that he stands on to install the ceiling. But maybe we can stand on and beside the grid to do the painting.


We also hope to visit some classes to see how the teachers are doing. They don't mind.


Del, who is our African American volunteer is getting a tan line. I am fascinated by that. Those of you who know Del may find her to be a couple shades darker when you see her next time.


We are preparing to do a live chat with Heather Dean's 5th grade class in Florida today. We are doing this at 9am USA time, 5pm Uganda time.


We'll see how the connection is at that time. Now that Hanan has a faster modem, it may work well. If not, he would like to try the reverse schedule......9pm here, 1pm in FLA. In that case, however, Hanan would have to spend the night at the school, because of the long commute to get home afterward. He would ask the children who do the chat to take a little nap so they would not be too tired at 9pm. I personally hope that the plan we are trying today works, because it is more convenient, but we think 8am there and 4pm here would be even better.....perhaps for next time.


I just stopped at the ATM to make a withdrawal, and one of the 50,000 UBX bills came out torn in half, so I had to go into the counter and exchange it for a good one. Some of the bills are so old, fragile and dirty, no wonder they tear!

Feb 3, Part II
Hello Everyone,
Well, it's Wednesday, meaning that the loud music will start up again tonight. Monday was their night off. Ahhhh. Then last night, the power went out around midnight. Ahhhh. Tonight, not so. The concert begins in about an hour and will last for HOURS!!!


Our hotel staff surprised us this morning with a different breakfast: fried plantains with peanut sauce (six each, way too many for one person!) and jackfruit. Del said it was the best thing (jackfruit) she's eaten so far!


We arrived at the school thinking we were going to start painting the health clinic, but there were no drop cloths or painting supplies. Hanan said we didn't need drop cloths, the floor was covered with red dust and would catch the paint splatters, and be scrubbed off when we were finished. I didn't buy that. I want sheets of plastic film for drop cloths. We can find them, but by the time we organized the idea, it was too late to go shopping.


To use our time wisely, I sat with Uncle David, Hanan and teacher Joseph to complete going over the sponsorship list, getting all the current information on each child. It took awhile. But we finished it. I was surprised to learn that almost all the children on the sponsorship list have no parents.


Meanwhile, Bob had found some electrical tape and was standing on a bench stretching up to re-do the wires overhead. They were frayed and needed to be separated in some places before wrapping!


Then Hanan and I took 5 of the brightest children into the media center to work on an interview that was requested by a woman who is writing a magazine for children about children around the world. I was to ask them questions about energy...how they use it, what kinds they use, etc. It took us about an hour to complete the questionnaire. They were fascinated by my solar calculator, when I showed it to them and explained how the sun powered it.


Uncle David knew we were going to be staying later at the school, so as to do the live computer chat with Heather Dean's class in Florida at 5pm (9am her time). Hanan brought his laptop to the school for that, with the webcam and new modem.


Around 3pm Hanan and the volunteers were meeting to discuss how to update the website in order to help people see the progress we are making, and the future plans and goals we have. we talked about how to invite people to contribute to the land purchase. I will make a sketch of the campus so far, with the proposed purchase shown in the sketch. I was trying to draw the outline of the land, but was having trouble getting it to scale, so Bob offered to pace it out and give me some rough measurements so the drawing will be more accurate. There is no survey that belongs to Hanan....if you want to see it, you have to go to the government land office and they will show it to you. You can't even make a copy of it. But there are stones planted by the surveyors to show the boundaries of our land. It's an odd shaped piece we have, and an odd shape that we hope to buy. The drawing will help.


While we were talking, four children filed down to where we were sitting in the shade and presented us with special meals: braised chicken legs, matouke, Irish potatoes and greens. Uncle David wanted to surprise us. The children delivered the plates on bended knee, which is typical here in Uganda...they give you something while kneeling down. It's very humbling!


I'm sure it was the very best food that they had. But a mountain of matouke was too much for each of us. I struggled with the tough chicken. None of us used our fingers because our hands were filthy. The fork served as a handle from which to rip off strips with the teeth. Not very ladylike.


None of the volunteers finished our matouke.....but there were children standing ready to finish it off for us.


Then it was time for the live chat. Hanan, 5 children and we three volunteers all assembled in the media room and plugged in the computer. It booted right up, and the new modem worked perfectly and fast! Wow. We were eager to chat! But within 3 minutes, the electricity went off in the whole village. I texted Carolyn Glass (our standby go-between) to let her know that we were going to try to get everyone down to the internet cafe.


Luckily, a matatu had just arrived at the school to deliver a bunch of children, and we were able to pile everyone into that for our ride down into Nateete. It took a few minutes of waiting to get started because Hanan had some more instructions for the workmen before we could leave. Then we were on our way. The girls wanted to be close to Bob!


We headed down the road and after we got past the village we realized we had forgotten someone's mother who was going to ride with us, so we had to back all the way up the hill to retrieve her. Then, started down and got in a jam with a car coming up that got stuck, and we couldn't get around her.


Finally we both inched this way and that until we were able to continue down the hill. But then we ran into a herd of the long horned cattle in the middle of the road, so that slowed us down, too.


Hanan decided we should go to the hotel to use his computer, so we headed there. We could see that the power was out all over Nateete, but we knew the hotel had a generator they could turn on, if we explained why we needed it.


When we got there, we thought the power was on so we went up to my room but no lights. Nothing. We went back down to the dining room to find a plug and get the manager to turn on the generator. Now we could boot up. By then it was 45 minutes later and we only had 90 minutes. But we did get the computer started, Hanan got into his email and clicked on the link for the chat.


But then an error message came up that his version of the Flash drive required for the chat was out dated so he would need to download another version. There was also a link he could use to bypass the new version, which he clicked. Unfortunately, that froze the computer and we spent several minutes trying to unfreeze the computer.


We did a restart, then Bob suggested we go ahead and download the new version of Flash, so he started the download. That done, Hanan had to restart again, then get his email to come up, and then click on the chat link again. This time it went through, and it takes about 2 minutes to load.


Then a cheer went up when we finally got into the Safari chat screen, but it happens that Miss Dean's class had had to sign off about 5 minutes earlier.


Hanan said this is very typical, but I must say the children here handled the disappointment very well. They got to ride in a matatu with some mzungus, see a hotel room, sit in a breezy dining room, have cold sodas, use clean flush toilets and watch a little bit of TV on the big screen. So it wasn't all bad, huh?


We said we wanted to try again while I am still here. We hope Miss Dean will contact me with another date. We are leaving Wednesday and our big celebration and program are on Tuesday, so maybe Monday would work. I hope to hear from her.

Meanwhile, Bob had H's computer because he feels there is something wrong....too much CPU being used to do simple things like get into Internet Explorer. So we'll see. The webcam wasn't even working today. So Bob will have to download the driver for that. Hanan doesn't have the CD any more.


Miss Del is hurting tonight because when she got out oft he SUV at the school this morning, she lost her footing on the gravel and fell down. She should have had an ice pack, but no supplies were at the school yet to make one. She is really feeling it now after all day of sitting, walking etc.

Feb 4
Hello Everyone,
So imagine Ugandan karaoke. I wish Lionel Richey wasn't so popular here. Imagine someone trying to sing "Stuck on You".....hitting that sustained high note over and over again.....about 1/4 pitch off.....and LOUD. GROAN.....I wanted to yell STOP!!!!!!!!


There was also a man who used various voices and sound effects that I suppose would have been a comedy routine (a very long one) that might have funny if I understood Luganda (local language). But late at night, LOUD, and competing with the Volvet Club DJ across the street on the other side, made it very challenging to read my book before trying to sleep. The power, unfortunately went out during our chat, but was on good and strong throughout the entire music fest.


Speaking of the Club Volvet across the street, they are having a contest tomorrow night to choose Miss Volvet and Mister Volvet. Maybe that's also karaoke. We don't know. Maybe a talent show? Cover charge is 3000 shillings. We were laughing at breakfast because Bob was kidding about entering the contest. We told him he might have an unfair advantage, being white and people thinking they had to vote for him. Then there is the possibility of starting another local riot. So I think he will pass on the idea.


I wanted to mention a very poignant scene at the school yesterday. It was finally the day that volunteer Del found and greeted her two sponsored children. Hanan brought them down to her and it was just downright tear jerking. In fact Del knelt down, took them gently in her arms, squeezed them both to her face while she just cried and rocked them back and forth. It was a very powerful moment for all of us watching. Of course we had to take plenty of photos. Hanan explained to the children that she was their sponsor. You should have seen their faces. It was precious. Del asked me today if I thought it would be ok to purchase some shoes for the little boy, because his were in rags. Neither of "her" children have parents. Most of the sponsored children do not have parents.


Nicole's sponsored girl Joan (pronounced JOE-en) loves the idea that Bob is her "adopted brother”, and of course, Bob himself has a sponsored child there, and he got to meet him. We have set aside at least two days to update all the children's photos. (Good thing it's not today because it's raining like mad--cooling things off a bit.)


I now have a sponsored "child". Previous volunteers will remember Brian, the carpenter's apprentice who is so good at math, and just an all around wonderful kid. He wanted to go to college and Uncle David took Brian in and wanted to help him. Classes started last Monday. The problem is, teachers' salaries aren't really big enough to send students to college and he has been struggling to pay the bills. So I said I would pay for Brian's college expenses. (Here in Uganda, college is about $350 per term, imagine that!) Uncle David's face lit up like the summer solstice when I told him that. He kept asking me to say it again, because he was sure he had not heard me correctly (David's English is marginal). He finally "got it" and almost hugged me. Well, actually I think he did.


The next day, which was the second day of college classes Brian showed up wearing a clean, bright orange shirt, neatly laundered pants and a big smile, as he came to grab my hands and thank me. It was just too wonderful to imagine this wonderful young man getting the education he so deserves. So off to class he went!


I was locked out of my room for about an hour last night. After going back to the hotel from the internet cafe I couldn't find my key and realized that the last time I had it was when I was opening my room to let the children in to do the chat (before we saw that the power was off). When we went down to the dining room, I had laid the key on the table and forgot about it. When I returned to the hotel, I looked all through my bag, checked the table, under the table. I talked with Dora the manager to see if someone had turned in my key...no.....so she went into the dining room where people were watching the big TV and threw on all the lights. We looked everywhere.


Of course, they have only one key per room. No skeleton keys. No spares. She said the hotel owner would get a locksmith to come the next day (at my expense) and put a new lock on my door. I just sighed. I was so tired, hot, needed a bath, to put my feet up.....Del gave me a chair to sit on in the hallway while waiting for Dora to do another search among hotel staff. Then Bob saw us and we told him the problem. He said, let me check Hanan's computer bag (Hanan had left his computer for Bob to check to see why it was operating so slowly). It turned out that someone had tucked my key into the side pocket of the bag...THANK GOODNESS!!!!!


This morning, Bob said that he checked H's computer and discovered that the problem is that widespread culprit: red dust!! It was so full of dust that the fan was choking up and stalling the computer. There were also some updates and maintenance things to do, but nothing major. So this morning Bob is off looking for some little tools, like a mini Phillips screw driver, some aerosol air and other things. Hanan stopped by at breakfast to see how we were doing and was pleased at Bob's analysis of the computer!!


Well, the rain is letting up. The street vendors are slowly uncovering their mountains of shoes, magazines, dishes, bananas, etc. When we get to school we will see how much mud we are dealing with today. I hope the roofing was completed yesterday!

Feb 4, Part II
Hello Everyone,
Well, the great painting adventure has begun, and Del treated the first patient in the nurse's office today. Let me explain.


We arrived at the school, getting mobbed by children....especially Bob. The kids just pile all over him, pinching his arm hairs, grabbing for his hand. They ALL want him!!! I had a few doing this to me, too. I have a small mole on the back of my left hand and this seems to attract a lot of attention. They want to pinch it and point to it and show it to their friends. They don't know what to make of it.


Most of the children were really busy cleaning the campus. Hanan and Paul the teacher were wearing their big mackintosh rubber boots because of the mud. Children were all working....all of them...picking up trash, sweeping dirt, scraping mud, hauling scrap metal up into the storage room, stacking building materials into neat piles. The campus is theirs and Hanan wants them to take good care of it. Which they do.


So we volunteers went into the nurse's office (AKA the clinic) to begin painting. The carpenter brought in a wash basin and a roller and a big can of primer made by a company called "Budget". It was fairly watery paint. We had had some children bring 4 of the old iron sheets into the room to use as drop cloths so the paint wouldn't splatter the floor. Well, at least that was an honorable thought. It turns out the metal was so extremely noisy when stepped on, like bubble wrap times 1000, and not as much fun. Bob and Del and I wrapped our hair to keep the paint off, and I slipped a big t-shirt on over my dress. I decided to take my shoes off because I only brought the one pair (crocks) and also took off my socks (yes, I wear geeky socks with my crocks, but I get blisters without them and I don't care what they look like).


So I'm in bare feet standing on the rusty old iron sheet. The carpenter filled the basin with paint, then showed my how to just dunk the whole roller in and let it drip before rolling. Thank goodness for the improvised drop cloth! Paint was going everywhere. It was going on very thin, so we were told to go over it twice. I couldn't quite stretch high enough to get to the ceiling, so Bob was going to do that with the brush. Del was using a dry brush to scrape and dust all the plaster dust and red dirt off the window sills and floor joints so the roller and paint brushes wouldn't drag through all that dirt.


I was just getting into a rhythm when my big toe caught the edge of the iron sheet and opened a huge cut. At first I just stood there thinking RATS, but then I realized it was a very deep wound. Del immediately sprang into action because now I was starting to bleed all over the floor.


She helped me to the door where we had a big audience of children watching us, but now, at the sight of mzungu blood, lots of children came running over to see. Bob said that just yesterday children were asking if white people had blood, and what color it was. Did we have belly buttons? Nipples? etc. etc. So now I was the visual aid for a biology lesson. While Del took a bottle of pure spring drinking water and poured it over my foot, my blood was pouring out all over the floor and running onto the ground outside the door. Del then took some clean napkins we had saved from breakfast and applied firm pressure to the cut while I gave a lesson to the children on how all people everywhere have blood and the blood is red, just like theirs.


Bob happened to have a Band-Aid in his pack, so Del wrapped that tightly around my toe. By that time, the toe was really killing me, so I lay down on the plywood sheet in the middle of the floor and propped up my foot to keep it from throbbing. It was hurting like "H". The kids were very interested in the whole process.


Del made me drink some water, saying I had lost a lot of blood, then she took my pulse to make sure I wasn't going into shock.

I felt like a real nerd, flat on my back with my foot propped up while Del, Bob and the carpenter got the whole room painted with the primer coat.


This is traditional construction, meaning that the floor is cement, the walls are hand spread rough plaster, the roof beams made of wood poles and nailed at all different angles, and ceiling made of plywood sheets, not necessarily installed evenly across the room.


So the materials are quite uneven, but that's the way they do it here. They are thrilled. Actually the outside of the classroom building and clinic are really very attractive now that they have been coated with plaster, and their carpenter will paint the structures with the usual gold and reddish brown, to finish the look. Every time we pull into the school now, I'm struck by how different and how wonderful things are, compared to what they looked like before!


Everyone keeps saying how grateful they are!


Yesterday when Del, Bob, H and I were sitting in the shade, talking about future plans, it happened to be near the original big tree where H put the wooden desk to take registrations that first year (2005). He loves to reminisce and tell the story to the volunteers of how after the first year, they were $100 short and they emailed me asking for help. He says that I sent not just $100 but $150, and then, there by the tree where it all began, he said something very poignant and powerful. He said "Mutti (the name he calls me), you have no idea how much power was in that $150. If it hadn't been for that, our school would have ended right there and then. I was ready to find another job and give up on the whole idea of having a school."


When we heard him say that, and then look over our shoulder to see the 410 students, the girls and boys dormitories, the media center, the new classroom building and clinic, the multi-purpose building going up, the computers and library books, we were all struck by the power of a dream.


After the room was painted one coat, we got into the SUV an d headed back to the hotel. To former volunteers: the big downhill road that was SO BAD in the past is now being graded. Right now there are 2 ton piles of fresh dirt spaced every 50 feet or so, and the earth mover is working from the top down. AMAZING!!! They also have new storm drains along the side where the matatu was submerged in the ditch last year. So things are improving.


I'm not sure if I'll be able to do painting tomorrow. We'll see how my foot feels. Del instructed me to soak my foot in cold water, put Polysporin ointment on the cut, cover with gauze and tightly wrap with a bandage, then drink eat something and take some ibuprofen for pain.....all of which I did.


Then I limped down to the dining room balcony where Bob was already seated having a cold drink. He had noticed that the hotel can cook samosas (those Indian triangle things with the peas inside) so we ordered some of those. He was also Brave and ordered some sausages. He said they tasted like red hots.


He avoided the chicken because earlier this morning, while we were waiting for our driver, we wandered to the back of the hotel courtyard, peeked through the fence and saw the hotel cooking kitchen. There was a big mountain of dead chickens, half covered with feathers, all looking gray and sickly. Next to that was a mountain of green bananas, and then a mountain of what they call Irish potatoes (white potatoes, as opposed to yams which are common here).


Behind all that was a new cooking structure going in. we saw one similar but smaller at the one high school we toured the other day. It an outdoor furnace type stove for an open fire, but with a walled shelf in a circular opening that holds the big cooking pots. The fire is under the stones and the stones do the cooking. We heard that they can use half the firewood with those. We would like to get something like that some day for the school.


Enough for now. I want to get my foot elevated. Perhaps if I'm not able to paint tomorrow, H and I can purchase the remaining items for the clinic. Hand washing stations, foot lockers, etc.

Feb 6
Hello Everyone,
I'm sorry to be complaining about the heat and humidity when I know most of you are shoveling out of 10-14" of snow. (Thanks, Bob for the photo of Chestnut Street!!!)

At least it rained a lot today and brought a little relief, but the humidity is still high.

First things first. My foot is much better. In fact, when I got back to my room I did all the procedures prescribed by Nurse Del and was able to get my shoe on yesterday and help with the painting. I solved the "not wanting to get paint on my only pair of shoes" problem by tying plastic bags over my feet. Voila!

The first coat of primer had dried, but the carpenter told us we would need two coats. The paint looked like glorified whitewash. The second coat helped. It went much faster than the day before, too. When you imagine the walls being painted, don't imagine they are like our walls at home. These walls are pretty primitive cement, meaning that from time to time a blemish will open up and spill a bit of red dirt and sand out onto what you just finished painting. Thank goodness for the second coat that will cover some of that before we use the more expensive vinyl paint for the final coat.

After painting, we took the car back to the hotel to wash the paint off our arms and faces, changed clothes and went into Kampala to the computer store where Hanan had originally purchased the computer. He always goes back there with his computer and they know him, which helps. Bob wanted to purchase some compressed air to unclog the fan, etc. but they don't sell it anywhere here. We also wanted to find the driver for the webcam that Hanan has because since he moved, he can't find the CD. So the store people were kind enough to take the CD from a new webcam and put it into Hanan's computer for a download. Unfortunately, the CD mechanism was also gummed up and wouldn't work, so I happened to have my SB media card adapter, and Bob had them copy the driver onto that, and he will try later to get it onto Hanan's computer, after he cleans it up. We are determined to have the thing up and running for Monday's chat session with Heather Dean's class.

We did get a notebook cool pad for Hanan's computer. It's a little shelf with built in fans that keep the dust from going into his computer. He will have to keep that running the whole time his computer is turned on.

This must be baby stork season, as the big stork nests that adorn so many trees around here (especially in downtown Kampala) have fluffy white babies in them. I think Del got a pretty good photo of mama stork feeding her babies. She had to lean way out of the window to get it.

After the computer store, we swung around to the National Theater's Craft Village once again so Del could purchase a drum. She had her eye on one special one. It looks great, sounds great, and she got a GREAT deal on it!

While Bob and I waited in the car for Del and Hanan to get the drum, we purchased what we thought were newspapers from a street vendor. His paper was called "Red Pepper" and mine was called "Onion". Both of them were actually more like National Inquirer, and full of red hot spicy stories of people and their sexual escapades. Bob and I had some good laughs over some of the words we found in the articles!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a foot locker vendor who sold both those and the hand washing stands we are looking for for the clinic. The ones he had were covered with dust and rusted in the seams. My theory is that the road dust that collects on the metal is full of iron, and when it gets wet it creates rust wherever the water settles. I told Hanan I preferred to get items that looked a bit nicer....at least without all the rust and little scratches. Esp. for the nurse's station/clinic.

In the evening, Ssebunya came to meet us at the hotel, to explain a text message he had sent me two days earlier. He wanted to tell us that a woman named Pauline from the Baylor Univ. section of the big hospital in Kampala (the biggest referral hospital in Uganda) talked with him about wanting to help the school. Her organization is looking for people they can test for HIV, and then provide free treatment and peer support. She has money to spend and is looking for an easy way to spend it, without having to go door to door. Ssebunya had told her about our school, so she wants to meet with us to set something up.

We spent a lot of time talking with Ssebunya about HIV, how to educated children, the cultural aspects of the disease here in Africa, of sex education, etc. etc. He is a wealth of information.

I invited Ssebunya to visit the school today because he had not seen it yet, and still he was willing to vouch for it with Pauline. So today, being Saturday and Ssebunya didn't have to go to work, he went with us to the school to visit. It was raining so hard we couldn't paint today. Plus, the roof isn't fully covered yet, so the rain was coming in and was making puddles on the clinic floor. It was not a good day to try to take photos of the sponsored children, either, so we decided to do other things.

Bob went back to the hotel to work on Hanan's computer. Ssebunya went on his way, and then Del, Hanan and I drove to Kampala to work down through our list of clinic supplies.

Note about the big piles of dirt waiting to be graded on the road that goes up the big hill: Just because there are piles of dirt here and there, that doesn't mean there will be an improvement any time soon. The amazing thing to me is that they feel such a need for huge speed bumps. Then I thought, maybe the piles of dirt are to make new speed bumps. I'm not sure, either way, it's rough going!!! But the boda boda drivers weave and dip and bob in and out of the ruts, with passengers and all sorts of cargo either on the back or the front, or sometimes both....and they get there faster!

This morning, there were hardly any bodas or bicycles on the road because of the rain, so there were a lot more matatus filled with people going here and there, making for big traffic jams.

Our first stop on the shopping trip was to buy soap for the clinic's hand washing stations. Hanan took us to the factory that makes an organic soap called Skin Doctor. It's good for treating wounds, rashes, allergies, dry skin and germs. He went in first so they wouldn't see the mzungu and right away call out higher prices. He was inside for awhile, then returned to the car under a big umbrella, carried by one of the salesmen. Hanan wanted to show me the bars of soap. We tried to figure out how much soap the clinic would use in one year. We had no idea, but it was finally the price that settled it. We decided that 500,000 UGX was just too much to put out for soap just now, so we bought one case which cost 240,000 (about $125 for 72 bars).

Then we went to the place on the other side of Kampala which must be "back to school" central, because they had dozens of vendors selling foot lockers, mattresses, backpacks, etc. etc. We pulled up along side of the curb by the foot locker section and were immediately bombarded by men lugging their wares over to the SUV windows. Hanan told them to please step back, and I let him do the talking.

Del and I thought that we should establish a color scheme for the clinic, to make it more appealing, so we went with blue footlockers. Then we got 2 blue basins for the bedside tables.

The man who had crafted and painted the footlockers also made washing stands, but he was out of them. We ordered 2, painted with the same blue color.

Del and I wanted to get towels for the clinic, so Hanan showed us a shopping center where they sell nice things. All set prices, though. No bargaining there. And the prices are surprisingly high. This is the same place where we had looked at new refrigerators, and ended up buying a used one. The towels were $7 each, and Hanan thought that was terribly high. He suggested that he knows a place that sells used towels. Del and I just looked at each other, thinking about the used towels and how we wanted everything in the clinic to be nice and new and sparkling. I rejected that idea, and bought 5 of the towels, promising to send more from home later.

We also looked at glassed-in cabinets in the furniture section, and here again, the prices were unreasonably high, for Uganda. Hanan said his carpenter could build a cabinet that would have doors, three shelves and a lock, for all the examination instruments such as blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, etc. etc. And the carpenter would charge much less than the cabinets we saw for $150. OK OK....let him do it. We'll ask him tomorrow how much he wants to make the cabinet.

Before leaving the department store, we purchased a big blue plastic covered waste basket for the clinic, and four liters of bleach so the nurse can make disinfection solution to clean up blood, etc.

Then, back through horrific and slow traffic to Nateete, where we shopped for bedding. First we bought two mattresses to go on the two sick bay beds that the carpenter is making, then some pretty blue sheets. They only had double bed size, and the clinic beds are singles, so Hanan said they will cut the sheets in half, giving us four pairs of sheets and four pillow cases. Perfect. They will have to wash everything before they can use them in the clinic, because they have been tucked into plastic bags in this humid weather, and smelled awful.

We purchased two fuzzy child sized blankets--blue with big flowers on them--and two pillows. The pillows had to pass my strict "smell" test, however, because we can't have a mildewy pillow in the sick bay. We can wash sheets and blankets, but not pillows. We got two nice ones!

The last shopping stop was next door to the mattress place where we purchased 15 meters of plastic flooring, 2 meters wide. It looks like oil cloth, but that's what they use on the floor. We picked a pretty blue and white pattern which will look great with the other blue accessories.


We didn't get any photos today, and we still have painting to do. We'll have to do that tomorrow!

Now back to a note about last night. I may have mentioned that there was to be some sort of contest last night at the Volvet Club across the street from the hotel. While we were all out on the hotel balcony socializing with Ssebunya last night, Bob kept watching the door of the Volvet Club to see if many people were going in. He had found out that the contest was a "beauty" contest for women (Miss Volvet) and men (Mr. Volvet) and he was itching to see what that was all about. So he got Eddie, one of the bartenders to go with him later.

Apparently the place was packed. Bob and Eddie walked in and Bob said not too many heads turned when this mzungu passed by. The chairs were set up audience style facing a small stage where there was a DJ playing music. Bob said the 5 women contestants were all pretty and the men were all wearing Speedos and showing off their toned muscles.

He and Eddie had a couple of drinks, but the music was so loud they couldn't hear themselves talk. When they decided to leave, Bob called the waitress over and made some gestures like he wanted to pay the bill, which he did, but there *might* have been a miscommunication because the waitress tried to whisper something in Bob's ear. He couldn't hear her, so she wrote something on a piece of paper and gave it to him. It turned out to be her phone number and name "Suzan". ?!?!? I guess Bob would have gotten at least one vote for Mr. Volvet!! How funny is that!!

Well, I'm settling down with a strawberry yogurt drink, some freshly roasted peanuts, some grapes I bought from a vendor (they don't look much like grapes....I'll have to wash them first), a chapatti made on the street, and a chocolate bar from the Safari market. What a feast~!

Feb 7
Hello everyone,
I've been hearing from my friends and family up north....it seems the snow has shut everything and everyone down up there! Wow, almost 2 feet in some places. My African friends find it hard to believe. They can't even imagine snow.


Yesterday, when it was raining so hard, it was also laundry day at the school. We stood inside the door of the clinic watching little girls wringing water out of the sheets and other things they had lying out to dry. Today will be better.


Notes on tradition and culture:
I (and the volunteers) notice things the people here don't even see. For example, I tend to notice things that I identify as having grimy finger marks (walls, furniture, etc.), squashed bugs on floors and walls, mildew in bedding, litter virtually everywhere, mountains of it (great place for cows and goats to graze), paint drops on the floor and moldings, rips and holes in the plastic carpets, mud stains on the outside (and inside) of buildings, uneven seams in the ceiling panels, warped beams, crooked nails sticking out. One day the media room which had just held a class was so littered with papers, plastic bags, torn composition pages, etc that I asked Hanan to have the children come back in and pick everything up.; They did a fair job.....but then I pointed out how the door was continuously squeaking, every time someone came in or out, or when the breeze blew it ever so slightly. Hanan just laughed at me. "You Americans notice things that we don't even see!!"


I realize that I am still not able to see without my "westernized lenses". I need to work on this because I definitely do not want to appear judgmental, and I certainly don't want to offend anyone. I've been to Africa 7 times and I still have to remind myself to slow down, change my expectations, adjust my standards, etc.


When we were shopping for furnishings for the clinic yesterday, I was thinking about all the things I could buy to send over here, but then I realized that what sick children want to see when they're in sick bay are familiar things. Things like the blankets THEY have over here. The plastic carpet THEY are used to here, even if the edges are frayed and a bit torn. They won't even care. They won't see that. What they WILL see is the brand new, lovingly provided and equipped nurse's station, and we are all glad about that!


Lesson: focus on what is wonderful.


Today is sunny. We will probably paint the silicone coat on the clinic. We must start taking photos of the sponsored children, starting with the boarding children, since it is Sunday and the day students will not be there. Tomorrow we can do the day students and the classroom photos, as long as it's not raining. Photos of children don't turn out very well indoors (dark room, dark walls, dark skin= too dark photo)


This evening Hanan and we volunteers are going to be on the radio. Hanan hosts a talk show every Sunday evening at 7pm, called "Thinking". It used to be called "Every Child Deserves to Go to School". It's a 30 minute program. He has to pay for the air time, but he says it's great publicity for the school. He used to have a small office set up in an outdoor market which cost something...to promote the school and register children. But for less money he can have this radio show and reach perhaps 1-2 million listeners (he said).


He does the show in Lugandan (the local language) but tonight he will be interviewing us in English, possibly translating a bit. He will be asking why we are here, why we feel this is important, etc. When he doesn't do interviews, he finds topics on goal setting, improving your leadership, etc.....all topics he gets from the several books I sent him a couple years ago on business practices. We are looking forward to tonight!


Well....happy snow to all. I think all your church services (up north) are cancelled, so enjoy your down time and have a nice cup of hot chocolate for me!

Feb 8
Hello Everyone,
Well yesterday was such a busy day! We arrived at the school and began organizing the children to take photos. That was quite a process! Not all of the children have yet arrived at the school, plus it was Sunday, so the day students weren’t there. We'll have to finish the photos another day....but it may have to wait until Wed...our last partial day in Uganda.


Bob used the time to pace off the school property so we can make up a sketch of the current land we own, and the plot that we hope to buy, so we can put it all on our web site, in order to begin raising the money we will need to buy it.


Then we went back to the hotel so Bob could show Hanan the updates and other tweaks he had made on H's computer. It runs faster, but still freezes up sometimes. The CD drive won't work at all, and he needs more RAM, and the battery is dead. But otherwise it seems to be working ok, including the webcam.


Our next chat will be either Mon or Tues at 1pm Florida time, so we hope Miss Dean will be able to confirm one of those times with us.


Ssebunya met us at the hotel to go over the plans to meet with Pauline, the lady from Baylor College who wants to do AIDS testing, treatment and peer support at our school.


Then we had to make plans with Hanan as to the format of the radio show we were going to do later. We left the hotel around 5:30, in order to get to the station by 7pm when the show airs. It was amazing to us how fast we were able to go because it was Sunday night and the stores were mostly closed and there was hardly any traffic. Wow. Never got to drive through the streets of Kampala at a fairly normal speed before.


The neighborhood around the radio station had a lot of big buildings, and some fancy districts, seemed upscale, at least until we got to the street where the station was. The station itself is in a tidy little compound, freshly painted in an egg custard color, with black trim. We parked outside and Hanan reached through the iron gate to release the slide bolts from top and bottom so we could enter.


We were greeted by Moses, H's friend and co-presenter for the show. We had about 45 minutes to wait for our turn at the microphones, and in the meantime we could hear the radio broadcast over the outside speakers. It was a Christian station and they were playing music in Lugandan language.


While we were waiting I decided to use the "facilities". It was a pit toilet around the corner from the courtyard where we were waiting. As soon as I entered I saw a very large "something" skitter across the wall. It was a lizard. OK. I decided that I could deal with a pit toilet....I've used them many times, but not in the company of an unpredictable lizard that could spring across and land on my back at any moment. So .....well.....I could wait until I got back to the hotel!


Then it was time for our program. It was a 30 minute program, beginning with a nice commercial about African Rural Schools Foundation USA and the ABC Divine Foundation School.....well at least it "sounded" nice and cheerful, with music and a nice deep James Earl Jones type of voice speaking in Lugandan.


We were seated in a small room with a long wooden desk equipped with three microphones and a sound engineer's desk with all the controls, right next to us. As soon as the advert was finished, Moses started off speaking, and then Hanan spoke, explaining that we were going to mix Lugandan and English this time, because there were three mzungus visiting who spoke English.


Each of us volunteers briefly introduced ourselves. Then Hanan asked us the question, what brought us to Uganda to help at the school. We each spoke, then Hanan translated each time. He asked questions, we answered, then he translated. He asked about our backgrounds, about child sponsorships, about the tremendous need in Uganda and what we thought could help, etc. etc.


The 30 min went by quickly, and at the end came the 1 min advert for the school again. Then we were finished! Moses had us wait outside while they made up a CD of the program, which we then played in the SUV on our way back to the hotel. It turned out really great! Bob is going to see if he can get a copy made at the internet cafe, so we can bring one home and make more copies.


When we returned to the hotel, I've never seen so many people there!!! The entire "concert" audience area by the stage was packed with people, the outside TV viewing area was packed, the inside dining room was completely full....some kind of World Cup game.....there was no more room in the parking lot for cars!!! Probably more than a thousand people at the Comprehensive Hotel buying drinks and having a night out.


Of course, the Club Volvet across the street was in full swing also, with music. So, it was quite a noisy night.


I wanted to mention one interesting conversation that we had with Hanan. I had asked him if Ugandans can tell the difference between tribes people. He said that most of the time they can. The central people have flatter, blunter noses. The ones from the west had long, more pointed noses and they are not very friendly. The Acholi tribe in the North have the blackest skin....he said they are mostly the ones that are hired to be night watchmen and guards because they look so menacing. But to be honest, they have the biggest smiles with their bright white teeth, and they are very friendly. We know most of the names of the guards around the internet cafe and the hotel.


This morning, Ssebunya came to meet us at the hotel at breakfast. He said our appointment with Pauline is set for 1pm so we need to leave the hotel by 11. Hanan, meanwhile, took 3 of our 4 suitcases full of clothing and medical supplies up to the school. The microscopes are still in my room. We'll get them later.


Our driver Charles drove into Kampala yesterday afternoon and picked up the washing stands that we had ordered. I saw them. They are nice and new, with shiny blue paint to match the footlockers the same man had made, with bright silver legs and soap dish. We just need to get the right sized buckets to put in the bucket ring. The 20 liter vat has a spigot welded to the front, and the water then goes directly into the bucket.


So today we'll meet with Pauline, then we may have time to go to the school for awhile. We have a lot of photos yet to take.

Another day, another adventure.


P.S. I asked Hanan how many people would be listening to the radio program we did. He thought a moment, and then said, probably about 2 million!!!

Feb 8, Part II
Hello Everyone,
What an absolutely FABULOUS day!!!! Ssebunya met us at the hotel, Hanan came with the car and away we went, off to the biggest hospital in Uganda, the Mulago Hospital. It's not far from the best university in Uganda, Muterere University.


Our appointment with Pauline was for 1pm, but we arrived early, so we decided to look around the hospital. We entered through the side entrance in an area that looks down over the "Casualty" door (ER). We passed by a sort of registration desk. No one asked to see ID or the purpose of our visit. There were lots of people wandering around. Many people sitting on mats outside the door, too, waiting for....I don’t know what.


We saw one of the patient wards. Patients, visitors, nurses, doctors milling around. We were snapping photos here and there when one of the nurses approached to ask who we were and what we thought we were doing there. She was an elderly nurse wearing a white uniform, and was very gracious and quiet with us, explaining that she didn't want us snapping photos there. We immediately put our cameras away. Hanan told us later that sometimes people are angling for a bribe, which we could have offered, but I say the nurse was genuinely concerned. I would be if I were her! There were no security passes for people walking in.


Ssebunya had said that there were two parts to the hospital. The old part an d the new part. I thought we were in the old part, but Ssebunya said no, this was the new part. (Makes me wonder what the "old" part looks like!)


We went out the same way we came in and walked up the hill where beautiful trees and gardens were planted. The buildings reflected partnerships with American organizations. I saw the Walter Reed Program on one building and we went in there. I had once served as an Army Reserve chaplain in the AIDS unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Wash DC and was interested in what they were doing here.


Once inside, we stopped by the reception office and asked if we could have a tour. The man we were referred to said we could come back at 2pm for a tour of the labs.


We decided to go over to the part of the hospital where our appointment with Pauline was....the Baylor College of Medicine Children's Foundation. There we saw hundred of women and children waiting to be seen in a big waiting area about the size of a bus station. The man who greeted us found out that we had an appointment with Pauline, and that we were a bit early, but he called her to let her know we were there.


She came down to greet us. She is a beautiful young professional woman, very well dressed and dozens of gorgeous little braids all done up in back. She also speaks excellent English. She manages the program.


She first explained that all the children we saw (hundreds of them) were all there to be tested and treated for HIV. There was one group of about 60 children all seated on a big woven mat at one end of the large room, watching a fun children's program on a big screen TV. A great way to be entertained while waiting.


Then we saw the corridors where children had their blood drawn, and had their treatments. Up the stairs was a beautiful big board room where we could sit and talk undisturbed. Because this building was part of Baylor College, it was built according to American standards, even the board room with its giant wooden table and executive swivel chairs and air conditioning. (ahhhhhhh)


Once we were all seated, Pauline proceeded to explain what they do for children, including testing, treatment and peer support. Ssebunya then asked her to tell us what she had told him about what they could do for our school.


Now here comes the AMAZING part: she has teams of people who go out into the field (aka places like our school) to find children to test for HIV. They would come out and test every child, staff member and child of staff members at the school....for free. They use the kind of test that gives immediate results so they would know right away how many of our students are HIV+.

Even before they would do that, they would come out and give a presentation to the whole school so that all the children and teachers would understand what they were doing and even more, to keep the HIV+ children from being shunned after they found out their status.


Then, they would come out once or twice a month to deliver the medication to our new clinic, and our nurse would dispense the meds every day to the children who needed it. They would need pills twice a day. The team also provides facilitation for peer support. Pauline said that often children isolate themselves when they are HIV+, but as soon as they get into groups, they open up and feel more "normal".


And the best part of all this is that everything is FREE!!!!!!!!!! The HIV+ children and family members are treated for as long as they need it. That is just so amazing and wonderful. And to think they will be working at our school! The program is largely subsidized by Bristol-Meyers drug company. And there are several other American agencies in partnership with them.

Also, they do nutrition counseling so the school will know if certain children will need dietary supplements. We’re not sure what that exactly means because the food budget is limited, but at least we might be able to make some adjustments.



After everyone exchanged information, we had spent over an hour with Pauline and it was time to go back to the Walter Reed building for our tour. A very nice man who seemed to be some kind of manager took an hour to show us all around the labs. They are inspected by our own FDA, so they have to measure up! Everything was spotlessly clean.


We saw freezers (temps down to -145 degrees), lots of refrigerators, centrifuges, machines, computers, lab workers in white coats wearing thick blue rubber gloves, bio hazard containers everywhere, special sinks, lab equipment, microscopes, etc. etc. And it was kept very cool in there because of the nature of the work.


They were testing blood for HIV and other diseases, and they were also working on a vaccine for Ebola, the disease that kills you quickly and is very contagious. It was all very fascinating.


I have to say that my eyes welled up with tears when I realized the implications of what we were about to do for the children at our school. It just seems like some kind of miracle, how everything just keeps falling into place for the good. I am thrilled!


We came back to the hotel feeling the success of our day, and all had refreshments....food and drinks at the end of the day.


Tomorrow is the special children’s program that Uncle David is preparing for us. There will be speeches, presentations, singing and dancing. If we have time, we will take more photos of the sponsored children. Then we go to Hanan's home for our farewell dinner with his family. After that we will come back to the hotel for our live chat with Heather Dean's 5th grade class down in Florida.

Feb 9
Hello Everyone,
When I got back to my room last evening, there was no running water in my room/bathroom. The power went out briefly, too, and when it came back on I realized I'd rather have water than electricity. I really needed a bath and to wash my shoes. (You have to wash you shoes every night here, to get all the red dust and clay off them. Shoe polishing by street vendors is big business here.)


Our first stop today was to Hanan's big church to meet with his senior pastor and mentor, Isaac. Kay Martin may remember the church. Today it is still under construction, with many beautiful floor and wall tiles being installed at the entrance, and the structure rising to three stories high. The pastor's office is on the third floor. We walked up and the waiting area was filled with women who were probably there to ask for some kind of assistance. Hanan announced our presence to the secretary who got us in to see the pastor after about 15 minutes.


He was very glad to see us and to hear about the progress at the school. Hanan considered the man as a father to him, since he gives such good advice and is such a good role model, and because H's own father has disowned him. The pastor talked with us for awhile, and then had us all join hands while he prayed for continued success of the school. He said that next I come to Uganda I should consider preaching for him!!!


This morning we took the big suitcase with the microscopes, step down transformer and other supplies to the school. We got there around 11 and the program planned for us was to begin at 1pm, so we had some time to kill.


Del decided to check in with one of the girls named Christina (one of Rev. Oswald's sponsored children) who had insisted on leaving a tightly wrapped head scarf on her head for her school picture. Hanan had explained that Christina was embarrassed because she had cancer on her ear and didn't want anyone to see it. So we took her photo with the scarf in place.


Then we found out later that she had tried to pierce her own ear lobes with a dirty needle and got an infection, actually in both ear lobes. It wasn't cancer after all. Nurse Del decided to have a look, so she took Christina into the unfinished clinic while I guarded the door, and she examined C's ears.


Instead of ear lobes, C had a growth about the size of a ping pong ball on each side, and Del could smell the infection the minute C unwrapped her scarf. We decided that she needed immediate treatment by a doctor, so we walked her down to the Hope Clinic (the nearest doctor) to have her evaluated.


We didn't have to wait. Dr. Ebbenezer could see her right away, since only one other patient was there at the time. (By the way, if the Hope Clinic is any indication of the inspection standards of the health department, we will pass with flying colors!!!)


The doctor looked carefully at both of C's ears, then wrote out a prescription for three things....an antibiotic to get rid of the infection, ibuprofen for pain, and some kind of ointment that she needs to use twice a day that will cause the growths to eventually dry up and just fall off.


The doctor charged us 2000 (about $1.20) for the visit. He was very curious about Del and me....who we were, where we are from, what we are doing in Uganda, etc. When we told him about the school and the proposed clinic he was very interested. He even offered to be our supervising doctor. It makes sense because his clinic and ours will be close. Whatever the nurse at our school clinic can't handle, we can refer to him. I told him I would have Hanan talk with him about the idea.


The pharmacy was the next window over, so we submitted the prescriptions. They had everything but the ointment, so I paid for the rest and promised to return later this evening when the ointment will have arrived. Then we went back to the school and had a private meeting with Hanan, Christina and the matron, to discuss C' s treatment. The doctor had told C to remove the scarf because it was making things worse. We found out that C had done the piercing TWO YEARS ago and she's been suffering with this ever since, and very embarrassed. We all encouraged C and told her she was beautiful without the scarf.....and her friends would stand by her until she is all better, which shouldn't be too long.


By then it was getting close to program time so I attached my video camera to the tripod and got ready to set it up. The program was going to be in the new classroom building, in the room at the bottom of the block, and they removed all the plywood partitions for the first time, to make an auditorium for the entire school.


The students had strung two bed sheets from the ceiling timbers to make a "backstage" area for the sound technicians who would run the music accompaniments. they had also used every blackboard in the school to make a kind of lean-to structure at the back of the stage area, to represent the old wooden classrooms. It was very clever.


The program began with the head teacher Uncle Paul giving a welcome speech, then he introduced the children who first sang a song, then everyone stood and sang the Ugandan national anthem. After that, there were more songs and dances. I think Bob was having a great time watching the kids' dance steps. He just couldn't sit still.


Then came the original play that Uncle David had written. It was all about ABC Divine Foundation school, with its old wooden classroom buildings. They began with a group of little children coming out from the lean to and playing typical schoolyard games, as if they were having recess. Then they went back inside, and a student dressed like Uncle David entered, followed by a boy in a suit and a girl in a grown-up looking dress and head wrap. They were supposed to be inspectors, who looked at the old wooden lean-to and complained to the headmaster that unless this old classroom block was replaced by a permanent one, they would close the school.


The "headmaster" shook his head and looked like he was pacing and praying, when another pair, dressed like a mother and father with a small child entered to talk about registration in the school. The "father" was asking about the school, the "mother" was looking at the old wooden buildings and saying "NO WAY" , we will not send our child here. They went on like that for a few minutes, then left.


Hanan, who was seated next to me leaned over and said, "That situation used to happen once in awhile before the new buildings went up!"


The play went on like that for a few minutes, and then in came the "volunteers from America": Rev. Renee, Del and Bob. They had chosen characters who did a pretty good job of impersonating us. It was very cute. The girl who played "me" is Victo.....one of the older girls who is a very good singer and dancer in previous programs. She is also one of the children who will take part in tonight’s' chat. "Rev. Renee" gave a speech about how she would help to build a new classroom block, then the others spoke, and the play ended on a very happy note with much applause.


Then it was time for introductions and speeches. The man who had been the landlord of the school property before we purchased it was there to bring greetings. He had given us such a good price and he is very proud of how the land has been developed. He is also on Hanan's board of advisors. All the teachers and staff were introduced, and finally I was asked to come up and make a speech.


I thanked all the children and especially Victo for playing the part of "Rev. Renee" so well. I explained that when we announced the new building project, we heard from a wonderful woman from New York named Peggy Macchetto who wanted to help in a special way, so she is the primary benefactor for the new classroom block. I then read the letter that Peggy had written to Hanan, and then I presented H with a plaque to hang on the outside of the building which says, "John F. Long S.J. Classroom Building, February 2010". Everyone applauded loudly.


Then it was time to dismiss for lunch. The volunteers and Hanan got into our SUV and headed for Hanan's home for a nice lunch prepared by Eve. She was there with just Kay, since all the other children were at school. I had seen Latifa earlier at the school. She came up to me and said, "Do you remember who I am?" I recognized her sweet smile immediately and said yes, and gave her a big hug and asked her if the dress we left for her at H's house fit, and she said yes, it did.


Our lunch consisted of rolex, cooked cabbage salad, French fries, rice, peanut sauce and freshly squeezed passion fruit juice. It was delicious. We said our last good-byes to Eve (and Kay, although she is still terrified of white people) and went on our way.


Not from their house, on the highway, we were about to pass an older woman who was trying to board a boda boda with a boy of about 10 years who was flailing all over the place. The woman was having an awful time trying to keep his arms and legs still so they could ride. Hanan immediately said we should stop and offer them a ride, which we did.


The boy was having seizures from malaria and couldn't hold still. His grandmother was frantic, as was his mother, who jumped on the boda and followed us as we sped to the hospital. We had put the nana and child in the front and Hanan in the cargo area, Nurse Del was right behind the boy, cradling his head and holding his hand. He was a very sick little boy.


Every time we looked back to see the mother, she was almost in tears with worry. Charles, our driver did his best to get us there fast, including sidelining some traffic by going down the center of the road. Finally we arrived at the Muslim hospital. They were Muslims. This was the largest Muslim hospital in Uganda (in actuality it isn't very big, but it looked like it would be sufficient). The women thanked us profusely. The poor grandmother, trying to hold the sick child, had her head scarf slip completely off, she tried to pull it up but couldn't. The most important thing was the child, as they ran toward the entrance of the building.


Now we are back in Nateete, waiting for H and the students to show up for the 9pm chat session with Heather Dean's class. We are very hopeful this time that the chat will work. Keep your fingers crossed everyone!


Tomorrow is our last day here. We will spend some time at the school hoping to get some more student photos. The ones we don't get will be left to Hanan to try to get. It really takes a long time to do it, and we have done our best with our To Do list.

We have to leave for the airport around 6pm. One more night at the Comprehensive Hotel. There was no concert or DJ music last night.......ahhhhhh........no telling about tonight. The main thing is, I hope I have water in my room......I need a bath!!!!

Feb 10
Hello Everyone,
After leaving the internet cafe last evening I ran into Ssebunya who had been trying to reach me all afternoon. He had come to tell me that he has set up a meeting for me and Hanan with a woman named Brenda from a Canadian agency that he thought we might partner with. I have no idea what that's about, but if Ssebunya is involved, I'm sure it will be good. So this morning, before going to the school for the last time, we will meet with Brenda. I have to say that Ssebunya gets an A+ for persistence and dedication. I'm so glad to have met him!!


Del was able to purchase a little pair of black school shoes for her sponsored child, as she noticed his shoes were really ragged and falling apart. One shoe wouldn't even stay on any more. So she will give him the shoes today.


This morning Dora brought us hard boiled eggs and samosas with hot sauce for breakfast, along with the usual instant Ugandan coffee and spiced milk tea.


Last night we hosted four students and Hanan at the hotel for our chat with Heather Dean's class in Tampa. I had to clear a big space in my room for those five plus the three of us volunteers, because the dining room was too dark and noisy to conduct any sort of computer event. So the students all sat on the bed, Hanan on a chair, Del and I in chairs behind the computer and Bob hovering around, troubleshooting with the computer.


The power had gone out, then we couldn't access Safari Live chat, then the computer froze a couple of times and we had to reboot about 3 times, trying Internet Explorer instead of Firefox. FINALLY we were able to log in, but it takes a long time to access the site, watching the little percentage numbers climb with agonizing slowness to that 100%. It almost hit the 100 twice before starting over again by reloading the page.


At last we were in! We got to see and (almost) hear Miss Dean's class. The Club Volvet music had already cranked up for the night, so we had to put up with that, interfering with our ability to hear.


We also go to see Carolyn Glass in Pittsburgh, and what looked to be Aaron as well.


Our computer froze up a couple of times and had to keep reloading the page to get it back. All in all we had about 30 minutes of this sort of on-again, off-again chat, but the students here enjoyed it. They seemed a bit shy, having trouble thinking of questions. Hanan was asking them to say their question in Lugandan and then he would type it in English, and that seemed to work best.


Bob thinks that by having three video screens going at the same time in the chat box, it requires too much bandwidth here to stay afloat, so for future reference, we should try to have only Uganda and Tampa on the screen at the same time.

The Safari software seems to require a lot, too........we agreed that it would be ideal if Heather's school would allow one of the common chat screens like MSN Messenger, etc.


Before bed I went down to the store where those two Indian men are always there waiting on people. The young one always is so friendly to me and smiles broadly whenever I come in. I asked if he works all day and all night, and he shook his head and said "yes!". I don't think he ever gets a vacation.


I asked for the best bug spray they had, took it up to my room and sprayed the heck out of the bags, under the bed, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was almost annihilating MYSELF in the process. If I had read the instructions first they probably said, fog and then LEAVE THE ROOM for two hours. I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep with the HEAT, the NOISE and now the BUG SPRAY!


So today we will meet first with Debra, then go up to the school to see what we can do. up there before we leave for the airport at 6pm. Dora let us keep our luggage in our rooms until we leave. Isa came to see me last night. He is very sad that we are leaving. He loves his American friends and would like us all to stay. He remembers us all: Steve, Kay, Wil, Nicole, Michael....and he will miss us, even with the promise of returning again next year.


So now, I'm off for the day. I may be able to check in again one more time before we go to the airport.


Feb 11
Hello Everyone,
This is my last installment on the Uganda trip 2010, and I'm writing this from the Detroit airport, after two LONG 8 hour flights (Entebbe to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Detroit). We have a five hour layover here before flying back to PGH.

Yesterday morning, we collected all our luggage and stored it at the hotel while we had meetings, etc. First we met with Ssebunya and Debra (not Brenda, as I had said before) and Gloria, two women who work with homeless women and children in Kampala slums. Many of the them are HIV+ and she was giving me all the information about their multi-faceted programs, hoping for some sort of connection with US agencies or any other organizations that can offer help. I took her card and said I would do some research on that.

Then we loaded up the suitcases that contained adult clothing for the staff and headed up to the school for the last time. Soon after we arrived, the lunch bell rang (and iron tire rim hanging in a tree, "rung" by hitting it with a stone). All the children poured out of their classes with their cups and bowls, and lined up for maize and beans, the littlest ones first.

While the children were having lunch, Hanan wanted me to do a video of him expressing his deep thanks to Peggy Macchetto for her enormous generosity to the school for the construction of the new classroom block. He said he would rather say his thanks than write a letter, so that's what we did. I sat beside Hanan while Bob operated the video camera.

Then after lunch, Hanan lined up all the children by classes so we could get class photos (by class). We did not have time to do any more individual children. Perhaps Hanan will be able to do that later on.

After the photo session Hanan brought out the suitcases of clothing and the teachers all gathered around and pulled shirts, dresses, pants, skirts, tops, etc. from the pile. They were very happy with their new things, including the clothing that we three volunteers had left behind for them.

Of course, there had to be one more medical emergency for Nurse Del to handle. A little girl had injured her bare foot while filling her water jug at the well, and her toenail was also torn off. So Del brought her up to a shady spot to wash and dress the toe.

All during the morning and afternoon activities, there were 4 men hand digging a long trench from the edge of the school property, all along the driveway and out to the road. They were installing a new water line (aka a great big roll of plastic tubing) that will connect just above the neighboring water line. That should fix the pressure problem we were having with the old water faucet, whose connecting pipes were all rusted out.

One of Hanan's advisors is named Hilda, whom Hanan had called to ask if we could meet with her before we went back. She is the wife of a building contractor who does American style building (way out of our budget for the classroom project!). She agreed to be an advisor a couple of years ago, and I remember talking with her by telephone from the school there one time, when she had called Hanan from London where she was getting her master's degree in project management. What a great person to have on our advisory board!!!

After saying our final good-byes and giving hugs all around at the school we got into the car, went back to the hotel to freshen up, get our luggage and said our good-byes to the hotel staff, then started out for Kampala where Hilda was waiting to meet with us. We met her in her husband Ken's office downtown (Michael and Nicole will remember that office from last year), and there we talked for about 45 minutes, bringing her up to date with everything that's going on at the school. It was a very productive conversation. She is extremely pleased to be part of such a great endeavor, and with her skills in project management, she will be looking around the world on the web, to research grant money for different aspects of school programming: education, capital improvements, music and art, AIDS and HIV, and medical issues involving the new clinic. We are looking forward to a great partnership with Hilda!!

We had done all this in the early and mid afternoon because I had asked Hanan to let us stop at Lake Victoria for awhile before we had to go to the airport (the airport is right across the highway from the lake).

So it took us about an hour to get to the lake, and we went into a private area called Aero Beach, so named because there are two old airplanes parked there (one of which had a big portrait of Barack Obama painted on the tail), there were big sculptured animals (elephant, water buffalo, giraffes, zebra) for children to climb on, several thatched kiosks and grills that probably sell food on the weekends, a restaurant that featured a nice bar, big dance floor and veranda, all shaped like an old cruise ship, and two live camels wandering around on the sandy beach and munching on the surrounding grass.

Del and Bob were just wowed by the lake, it is so beautiful. It was getting near sunset, and there were three large storks strutting around near the water, fluffing and arching their wings, and finally soaring off into the fading daylight.

We spent some time on a children's playground, which included a slide, swing, merry go round and see saw, all made of iron tubes and sheets by some clever metal worker (although the things were all in great need of paint!). Del and our driver Charles had a nice ride on the seesaw. Before we left, Bob climbed up a rope ladder to sit on the back of the big stone elephant. Yes, we did get a photo of that! And as he was climbing down, his pants started to slide down, because that was a pair he had purchased at the thrift shop and didn't quite fit.

What a tremendous way to end our Uganda experience. The perfect end to a fantastic trip! We drove across to the airport, checked in and had time to evaluate our time together. We gave the volunteer trip high marks, and will have lots of stories to tell when we return home.

Thanks everyone for your interest in what we are doing here in Uganda. It is so reassuring to know that you are all behind us!! If anyone out there is thinking of going with me next time, just let me know. Tentative dates are the last week of January through the first week of Feb, plus a couple of days. I would love to be able to show you this important and fulfilling work.

Love to All,

Volunteers' Blog: Nicole Rodgers (2009)


Nicole RodgersAfter reading Kay and Steve Martin's blog of their volunteering experience for the African Rural Schools Uganda in 2008, I am taken aback at first glance by the complete similarities of our own experiences one year later.

Before I get into a deeper description of our trip though, I wish to convey to Will as well as Kay and Steve that they have made a lasting impression on the children during their visit. So many times, we were taken aside by the children and or the staff, who would ask one of us if we had seen you lately, or how you were doing and wanted to know why you did not come back. Of course, as you are aware, it would have been too complicated to explain that we had never met and that we know of each other through Renee. Instead, I told them that I would pass their good wishes along to all of you. Though it took me by surprise at first that they would remember you all so well and so fondly after meeting you for a brief period a year ago, I quickly came to identify with the "celebrity status" that Kay refers to in her blog. Renee had gone to great length to prepare us for this trip but I just can't imagine how she could have been able to describe the impact that these "oh so sweet" children would have on us.

At one point, totally out of the blue, a young lady asked if I was Will's mom. All I knew of Will is that he was the nice, tall young man that volunteered the previous year. It did not take much insight on my part though to detect the twinkle in her eyes when she said: "Please tell him that Ruth said HELLO. Will is my friend!…" I gave her a big hug, a wink and reassured her that I would pass the message along to Will. Her shyish, genuine laugh is still ringing in my ears.

The sweet smell of Lake Victoria was the first indication that we had arrived at our destination, Entebbe , Uganda . We could not have known the proximity of the lake as it was pitch black when our plane came down for landing. But the distinct smell of a large body of water mixed with warm night air could not be mistaken. I could barely concentrate on what I needed to say and do to get out of this airport as I was completely taken by my strange surroundings. The small building, the white priest dressed in a white suit and hat, the women in cotton dresses, the black people eagerly waiting on the outskirts to offer help; for a moment it felt like I was on a set of an old English movie about Africa . For me, that became the intriguing quandary of my trip. Why is it that Uganda appears to have been frozen in the 50s?

My fellow traveler, Michael Glass, has done a fantastic job at recording our adventures in his daily emails to his family back in Pittsburgh . As I read about his description of our first visit to the school, every detail of that day just rolls like a film in my head. The buildings appear in front of us as soon as we turn right off a narrow, very bumpy road. The few children that were out and about when we arrived just froze in their tracks as we pulled up in front of one of the shabby buildings, which we later found out were the classrooms. They were as curious of us the "white women" climbing out of the car as I was of them. I think that my heart was beating a hundred miles an hour as I really wasn't sure how we would be accepted and how comfortable they would be with our presence in their school. So strange now to think that I even had that thought as they immediately, broke into the biggest, warmest most genuine smiles and came running towards us with open arms. They immediately circled Renee, touching her, holding her hands, smiling, generally so happy to see her. As much as right at that moment, I wanted so badly to grab each one of them in a big hug, I refrained myself and decided that it might a good idea to let them come to me instead. I walked away to sit on one of the benches that was set up for the big reception Hannan had prepared for us. I was holding a few of the books I had brought with me to give to the school for the children. A couple of the little ones came over, checking me out like to say "and who are you, what's your story???" Because of the language barrier, we really could not get much beyond "Hello…." I then decided to open up one of the picture dictionaries to see if they might be interested in looking at the pictures with me. In a matter of minutes, I was surrounded by a swarm of smiling children of all ages asking at the same time: "What is this, what is that, can you read this story, what is your name" all the while touching my hair, my cheeks, my arms, a few holding me by the waist. Well needless to say that it was love at first sight and that very moment will be imprinted in my brain for the rest of my life as the most moving, loving experience ever.

In the sea of endless special moments of this trip, the next one that comes to mind is the first time I met my little Joan, one of my sponsored children. It was on a Saturday afternoon. It was fairly quiet at school as only the boarding children are around on weekends. As I was walking by the girl's dorm, Joan grabbed me by the hand and said: "Come in and see our stomach"… I walked in a little concerned about what kind of "stomach" I was about to see. I entered the hut to find a half dozen of the older children, boys and girls, crouched in front of what looked like to be BIG brown sausages. Each child was holding a stick and proceeded to proudly point to the parts of the digestive system they had built with mud, ending their presentation with: "and this is where the garbage comes out"… Joan had never let go of my hand through the entire presentation; she was so proud to show off the project that they had worked so hard on. We cheered, high fived, laughing so hard that pretty soon everyone was coming in the little hut to get a lesson on the "digestive system". We had brain stormed during the week about the idea of sponsoring the children that were either orphans or from families that could not afford the tuition. I was ecstatic when Hannan confirmed that Joan needed a sponsor as I knew immediately that she would be "mine"….

As the days went by and we were becoming more familiar with our new surroundings, I could not help but wonder about the history of the economical and political situation that created the standard of living of the Uganda of today. I had done some research before our trip but so many questions came to mind now that we were immersed in the culture. We visited a small bookstore on one of our trips to Kampala , the capital of Uganda . After trying to explain to every clerk in the library that I was looking for a book on the history of Uganda till today, the consensus was a book by George W. Shepherd, Jr. titled "The Early Struggle for Freedom and Unity in Uganda" copyright 1955. Though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind, it certainly turned out to be a riveting story of a white man who took the position of the first white man employed by an African organization (The Federation of Uganda African Farmers in August of 1951). So much made sense to me after reading his heroic attempt to provide equity for the blacks in trading their natural resources with the whites. To quote from one of the founders of the Federation: "My people know very little about the principles of co-operation and the ways of doing business in the white man's world, but they are determined that they will market their coffee and their cotton themselves and not simply sell to the Indians and Europeans."

The book narrates a gripping story of the continuous struggle over the years of the natives of Uganda against what appeared to be a very subtle but deliberate system of exploitation and discrimination. The author describes Uganda of 1951 as follows: "The sleeping giant is awakening and beginning to throw off the chains which have bound him to the ignorance and misery of the past. These chains of colonialism, tribalism, white supremacy, disease, and poverty are being broken one by one, and the great question arises: Once this giant is free, what will he do with his freedom and what will be his attitude toward the Western democracies?"

As I understand so much better the plight of today's Uganda , through the experiences of the author in the early 50s, I am also fascinated by the similarities of his experiences with our own, as if time stood still between 1951 and 2009. I laughed at his description of his first car trip with a chauffeur: "Never had I traveled over such roads, and I was amazed at the confident manner in which the chauffeur picked his way through these roads without any road signs. As we went by little mud houses, the whole family whole run out to watch us…." And: "After several days of bumping about on the almost impassible roads, eating practically nothing but matoke, and trying to get a few winks of sleep amidst the noise of drumming, dancing, and clapping that went on all night, I was grateful when we headed back…" In our case the drumming was the all night blasting music which we never really figured out where it was coming from.
He then questions what we had observed so many times; the beautifully dressed men and women walking about. "I discovered that nearly all Europeans dress in a casual, comfortable style, but that the Africans and Indians will always dress as best they can. The reason for this is difficult to fathom, unless it stems from a desire to appear as important as possible."

My sentiment exactly as the author depicts his visit to a school. "They sang songs and spoke English verses in unison. How they swelled with pride at a little praise and encouragement from me. As they marched away, singing at the top of their voices, it seemed to me that I heard the voices of all the youth of Uganda raised in a mighty chorus which echoed from the surrounding hills and valleys, full of determination to rise above themselves out of their poverty and ignorance into a new world of hope and promise." In the next paragraph he narrates a conversation he has with a co-worker at the Federation. Again, it sure transcends the situation with the education system we found on our recent trip. "Then I heard the voice of Nsikalira telling me how they people longed for more schools for their children. They were willing to make any sacrifice to send their children to school. But the government was not listening to their pleas. So they had gone ahead themselves, built their own buildings, and employed teachers, determined that their children would not have to endure the blindness of ignorance they themselves had suffered. Yet what they could do themselves was pitiful in comparison to the need." "They did not have the toys, books, or other aids to amusement and learning which Western children enjoy. They played little games with sticks and stones and chased one another around. Their capacity for enjoying life did not appear to be any the less because of the lack of numerous playthings." We could be referring to the children we saw a few weeks ago…

It's disconcerting to me to recognize how very little has changed in Uganda in the last 50 some years when reading Mr. Shepherd's description of the plight of Uganda then which almost mirrors our own experience so many years later. The African Rural Schools Foundation USA is the vision of a man who like the characters in the Mr. Shepherd's era, wishes to change the future of Uganda one child at a time. I am so very proud to have been a small instrument in his immense dream.

I will be for ever thankful to Renee for being so open the day we sat by side in a meeting. I remember interrupting her in the middle of her explanation of how she became the sponsor of the school to raise my hand and very excitedly say: "Can I go with you next time?" I expected anything but the answer that she gave back in her sweet quiet voice: "Of course, I would love it".

There were many memorable moments on this trip but I could have never anticipated the strong bonds that we were going to share with our new Uganda friends as well as my fellow travelers. These experiences will never pass from my memory though we have returned to own pattern of life.

Volunteers' Blog: Michael Glass (2009)


Volunteer Michael Glass wrote emails to send back to family and friends. Here they are:


(Day 1 in Uganda)

greetings all,

Michael GlassI hope everyone is well.

Well, we're here. We arrived at Entebbe airport around 10:30pm... stepped out of the plane and the smell of this fresh air was remarkable. there was a soft breeze coming off of Lake Victoria, very pleasant temperatures, everything was green... very welcoming.

Hanan was so happy to see us... it was too funny. I felt like a celebrity. He hired a driver to transport us the entire time we are here. other than driving on the wrong side of the road, there are no lights, it's pitch black, and this guy was flying... of course, seeing cars come at me from the wrong side of the road took some getting used to, but the drive to the hotel was scary, not because of the driving, but because of the country. it was like driving through rural Georgia or Alabama, circa 1950-1960... little shanty towns and falling down houses peppered the sides of the road... little campfires along the way with people cooking, eating, listening to music... little "juke joints" along the way, people shooting pool and drinking beer... culture shock.

Arrived at the hotel around midnight. There must have been 100 - 125 people all sitting outside in the back parking area of the hotel watching a soccer game on a 52" widescreen TV... another 50 - 100 sitting in the dining room of the hotel watching the same match... cheers, yelling... you would have thought it was 12:00 in the afternoon. hilarious.

greetings all,

day 2 in Uganda.

Renee’s flight got delayed … so instead of arriving in the late morning, she got here around 6pm.

While we were waiting for her yesterday, after we left the internet cafe (and that is a misnomer, by the way) Nicole went back to her room to sleep, I walked around the neighborhood for a while. then I went back to my room, took a nap... after Renee arrived, we went to Hanan’s house for dinner. his family is very sweet. I gave eve the necklace that Carolyn sent for her. She was too happy... she danced! I gave the kids pretzels, which they had never seen, and they loved them. We ate rice (amazingly tasty) peanut sauce, matouke (steamed bananas), greens that tasted like spinach (way too salty) and cabbage salad. All-in-all, quite tasty and filling. Renee was tired, so we went back to our hotel around 8:30 - 9:00pm and everybody crashed.

I cannot even begin to describe to you what life is like here... rural, hard, literally off the land, and non-stop. It is hard to know when people sleep. The street our hotel is located on is non-stop. Thousands... thousands of people moving at all times of the day and night. As busy as the day is, life seems to get going after about 4pm. Taxis and busses are constant, stopping in front of the hotel at the rate of about 2 or 3 per minute... people jump off, people jump on as the taxis (minivans) barely stop, horns are blowing indicating that they are about to move, people scurrying and the boda-bodas (these are bicycles or motorbikes/motorcycles) are constantly jockeying for first place when the taxis stop. People get out, quickly pay their fares, then jump on the back of one of these boda-bodas and get transported to the rest of their destination. These boda-bodas are in front of the hotel, up and down the entire street, all day long. But from about 6pm through 2am, there may be as many as 30-50 of these things lined up in front of the hotel. They drive against the traffic, on the sidewalk, over the median... anywhere, anyway to get to a customer. The crazy thing is that at midnight there are customers... hundreds of them.

Life seems to start after 6pm, as it is about to get cool. there is a storefront selling something at every doorway... food (homemade bread, roasted corn, chicken on a stick...), bootleg videos/DVD’s, clothes, mattresses, furniture. And this is where the light comes from. There is a street light at the corner where there is also the only traffic light in this town, and that is the only public lighting. The storefronts (which is also people's homes) is the only other light. The daylight hours are short, from about 7:30am til 7:00pm. but there is commerce practically 24 hours/day. It is amazing.

Well, it's 10:55am now, and Hanan is picking us up at 11:00 and we're going to the new school campus. there is some sort of surprise for Renee at the old school, so we are not supposed to go there until Sunday. so after we visit the new school, we are going into Kampala.

day 3 in Uganda... I think


It's difficult to keep up with the days... I don't wear a watch, there is no newspaper, no office to go to, and we are going pretty much non-stop, so...


We went to the ARSF-USA’s new registration office yesterday. It is located in an upscale neighborhood (again, a misnomer) so that Hanan can attract more affluent parents who can actually afford the $125 per year tuition. The office is located inside and at the rear of an "indoor" marketplace... people selling all manner of fruits and vegetables in a somewhat covered, bricked-in edifice. we must be the most motley crew in Uganda... me and these two tall white women... we attract all manner of stares everywhere we go. As we were walking through the marketplace, saying hello to everyone... most smiled and said hello while others just looked suspicious... some began to whisper and point, and I could hear some whispering, "America..." then some woman pointing to me said loudly, "Obama!" shouts of "Obama" echoed throughout the place and people began cheering, applauding and laughing, so we all joined in and had an impromptu celebration. The little office Hanan has to register kids has a huge outdoor banner over the door with the name of the school and a reference to the Unitarian church in Pittsburgh, and there is a huge photo of Renee with a child. As soon as everyone realized that Renee was the person on the banner, more smiles were apparent as there was a celebrity amongst them. Soon, all were happy and were glad to have us with them and take photos of them. Much fun! The kids and parents who were at the registration office staged a little presentation for Renee and said how excited they were to have us there.


Afterward, we drove into Kampala city and visited the crafts market. Amazing! about 5 acres of people on the lawn with tents and some amazing artwork, crafts, food, and clothing. a lot of stuff was fairly typical of the kind of stuff you would find in an American flea market or at 10,000 villages in squirrel hill... low-end stuff that people can make with minimal supplies and skills, but also some amazing hand-crafted sculptures, intricately detailed carvings, and hand made jewelry. Some of this stuff was absolutely amazing. I bought a few things... tried to find something nice for the house... I looked at a carving that I thought would be nice for the house... 80,000 shillings. then the whispers of Barack Obama began again (that's happening a lot) so I told the woman that I was a personal friend of Barack Obama and I was taking this back to the U.S. and he would be very happy if I got a better price. Everyone laughed and didn't believe me, but I bought it for only 40,000 shillings... about $28. I have seen similar statues in Pittsburgh galleries for about $200. so I bought a few things... not too much.


We stayed at the market for most of the rest of the afternoon. We stayed at the market for most of the rest of the afternoon. Renee bought a lot of stuff to sell for the school, and then we headed back to our hotel. You cannot imagine the poor air quality here, in large part due to the dry, red earth. this is like Georgia red clay, but much more dry and loose. This stuff is in the air all the time, gets kicked up by the traffic and just gets into and onto everything. when I am not actually taking a photo, I keep my camera wrapped up in a cloth. When we got back to the hotel, I decided to wash before dinner, and you can't imagine the amount of red dirt that was on my face and neck. Loads of it. Nicole said when she got in the shower and saw all this red water in the tub, she got scared... wondered what was happening to her hair. On top of all that, there is no vehicle inspection or emission control, so some of these old vehicles are just spewing out diesel and fumes... makes breathing a little difficult.


We ate at the hotel and later went for a walk. We bought some fry bread from one of the street vendors... kind of like a heavy pita bread... the guy rolls out the dough and throws it onto the hot plate with a little oil... very tasty. We also bought some roasted corn on the cob... smelled so good, tasted so bad. These street vendors usurp every square inch of the sidewalk and there is barely enough room to walk. People are moving very fast. Of course, they know where they are going, and we're just sight seeing, but you have to keep moving or the crowd will just push you along. Anything you can imagine can be purchased from one of these vendors... from refrigerators and linoleum to dishes, candles, clothing, shoes and food. The amount of commerce is amazing. Non-stop.


Last night was particularly noisy and festive. I don't know if that is because it was Friday, the end of the week, but the amount of people on the street was especially thick and the music was loud and still going strong when I fell asleep, about midnight. fortunately, I am not a light sleeper and the noise isn't bothering me. this morning, Renee said she did not sleep well because of the noise. our rooms are side-by-side, so we wake each other in the morning for breakfast. After breakfast this morning, we hung around because it was pouring down rain and we couldn't get the car to the school grounds... might get stuck in the mud. We went to the bank to get some shillings, and then Hanan took Renee to the airport to pick up her [lost] luggage. It is 1pm right now and she is due back any minute now. The rain has stopped so we will probably go to the school.

day 4 in Uganda

Well yesterday Renee went to pick up her luggage and Nicole and I stayed here. we expected her to return around 1-1:30. Nicole and I went to the dining room and drank tea. I had a proposal from Hanan to review and Nicole hung out with me. About 3pm, Nicole said she was worried about Renee... they had not yet returned, but Renee left her cell phone with me so I wasn't worried. about 4:00, Hanan called me and said he was detained at the airport. Renee forgot her passport so she had to sign papers for Hanan to go into the airport to retrieve her luggage. Customs opened her luggage and saw all this stuff that she did not include on her claim when the luggage was lost, so they tried to make Hanan pay hundreds of dollars for it. He explained that he didn't have any money, that Renee was just around the corner, but they wouldn't let him get her. They kept him there for hours trying to extort money from him. He kept telling them the clothes were for poor orphan children at school and that he had no money, so they finally took some of the ink pens that Renee packed for the school and let him go. They got back here around 5pm. It was too late to go to the school by then, so we had a meeting with Hanan to discuss the proposal he left with me.

After Hanan left, we had dinner and observed the football phenomenon again. The really funny thing is, there is a room full of about 30 soccer fans at 6pm on a Saturday, the game is on and the room is absolutely silent... nothing like the rowdy U.S. football fans. Nicole and Renee wanted to get on the internet... too crowded for me to wait, so I went for a walk, did a little shopping. This is the thickest I have seen the traffic yet. I get more surprised by this every day. It was about 7pm and the line of barely creeping, practically stand-still traffic could be seen for at least a mile, while the boda bodas weaved in and out with their passengers sitting side saddle on the back, bicycles flying just as fast. I hope I can get some video of this.

(Day 5)

greetings again from Uganda,

yesterday was remarkable. I wish there was another word to describe it, but remarkable is the best I can do right now.

After breakfast we went directly to the school. Other than what is on the website and the newsletter, I didn't have any preconceptions about it. I knew this is a poor school in a poor place... I was surprised by the stark contrast of the rugged, rural terrain and community compared with the pure beauty of this school sitting on top of this hill. Everything about the school is rough... shabbily constructed buildings... cement and brick... nothing cosmetic except the paint that was applied, who knows when. No windows, just open portals, some with shutters, some without... no linoleum or any kind of floor covering... either cement or dirt floors. tin roofs covering four walls... that's just about it. The dorms have triple bunk beds and foot lockers... a few things hanging on hooks on these cement or brick walls. this school epitomizes every conception you have of poor African children and schools.

But there is a wonderful breeze blowing across the top of this hill and it perfectly complements the attitude and demeanor of these most beautiful children. Children, in general, never move me like this. These kids were gorgeous... excited to see us, eager to talk and ask questions, bright faces and shy smiles in these adorable little orange and brown uniforms, some with fluent, brilliant English with distinctly British accents. I don't know any American children, or adults for that matter, who speak as well as some of these kids. When we arrived, I was touring the place with Hanan, and Nicole went to sit under a tent out of the sun. A few inquisitive kids came over to her and she took out a book. I looked back about five minutes later and couldn't see Nicole for the swarm of kids around her. They couldn't believe the beauty of this book... the pictures and colors. She was trying to describe the concept of snow to them. She loved it, they loved it. At some point she took out her camera and you never saw so many kids trying to get their picture taken. She would take the picture and this whole crowd of kids would run to her to see it, practically knocking her down, laughing and pointing at the picture and each other. They all were having a ball. I never heard Nicole laugh so genuinely... she was giddy and the kids loved it.

About noon, Hanan said it was time for the "charity walk." This was a march through this little village in order to showcase the kids and the school and to announce the distribution of the mosquito nets. Hanan hired a brass band to lead the march, all dressed in school tee shirts, and the kids marched... pranced, behind this band. And I mean we walked through the entire village... through affluent neighborhoods and some of the poorest you can imagine. Just like the pied piper, kids and parents both flocked to the music. Some child who couldn't have been more than 3 walked up to me and grabbed my hand and never let go. I was thinking, who is this child, where are his parents, where does he live??? David, who works with Hanan, smiled at me and said don't worry, he'll find his way home. This kid walked with me for about a mile and a half, all the way back to the school. I could not get him to let my hand go. Somebody else saw the concern on my face and said, don't worry, he belongs to the village, he'll be fine. I finally had to pull away from him because I had some work to do. About a half hour later, Nicole brought this same boy to me and said he was hungry. The school kids were eating lunch and he wanted to eat too. They can only feed you if you have your own bowl, so I gave him mine. He ran to the front of the line, pushing some of the big kids out of the way. They gave him food and as Nicole and I laughed, turned back around, the kid had disappeared. We had no idea where he was. We went back to work and about an hour later, while I was sitting waiting for part of the afternoon program, somebody taps me on my leg. I look down and it's this same boy, with the biggest grin on his face, handing me the bowl, freshly washed. I took the bowl and he ran happily away. He returned a few minutes later and was my sidekick for the rest of the day.

So the reason we couldn't go to the school before now is that Hanan had this whole program planned for us... a brass band, he rented tents for people to sit under, hired a disc jockey, had tribal drummers... after the march, we returned to the school and many folks from the community turned out, including a health dept official who thanked the American patrons for supporting the community, and some elected official, like a councilman, who also heaped praise upon us and then proceeded to deliver a long list of other community needs that he would like our help with, including purifying the water and helping with the garbage/sanitation problem. The school children had this whole performance planned, including songs and dance. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful these kids are. Renee video taped their performance, so you just have to watch it. I really can't describe it, but these kids brought tears to my eyes. They danced and sang this song, "you can be anything you want to be." I’m getting emotional just writing about it. The whole program, after the march, lasted from 2pm until about 5:30. Approximately 500 people from the community, mostly who were there to get mosquito nets, sat patiently, quietly, respectfully through this whole program and were terribly appreciative that these patrons came all the way from the U.S. to visit with them, "and help us solve some of our problems." I kept saying to Nicole, who do they think we are?

The program ended with a traditional African dance and we observed one of their customs. As the children perform, people come from the audience, walk right up to the performers and put coins in their hands. The kids keep right on singing and dancing as if nothing happened, and then there seems to be some competition/pressure on other adults/parents to give other kids coins. People kept walking up and giving the kids coins. Probably some of the adults were giving coins to their own children, but in other cases I know that the adult didn't have any kids in the school. Very unique and touching ceremony.

Nicole and I did a little skit about mosquitoes attacking and showed everyone how to use the nets. Then we distributed the nets. You would have thought we were giving away gold. Initially we had talked about buying mosquito nets for all the kids in the school and some for the community. We talked about 500 nets, then 1.000. After other people heard what we were doing, they made contributions and we figured we could buy 1200, then 1400... yesterday we distributed 2,000 mosquito nets and you never saw happier people. We brought a lot of goodwill for the school yesterday, and the community was very appreciative.

We left and headed back to the hotel about 6:45, before it got dark. we all were pretty exhausted from the day, the walk, and the sun. This sun is blazing from about 12 noon until about 4:30-5:00. No matter how cool, overcast, or rainy the morning is, the sun is blazing in the afternoon. The redemption is the always cool evenings. We got back to the hotel, had a light dinner, sat on the balcony of an empty room and watched a concert behind the hotel. Everyone was tired so we crashed pretty early. A very productive, wonderful, amazing day.

Tomorrow is Hanan’s birthday, so after we leave the school, we are having dinner at his house. I have a Steelers shirt for him. JUST CALL US SIXBURGH!!!! I woke up this morning and the first thing I heard on CNN is, the Steelers win a record 6th Super bowl. I saw the clips of Harrison’s interception and return as well as Holmes' touchdown catch. Sounds like it was an exciting game.

day 6 (I think) in Uganda

The days are just running together. I have no watch, no internet (usually) no office to go to, and we're just so busy... can't keep track of time.

Don't have a lot of time to write today... going to Kampala city to try to get some things for the school.

Yesterday was another amazing day. Went to the school in the a.m... went to all the classes and spent some time with t he kids... I played around in the math class... asked the kids some addition and subtraction questions... amazed at how fast they computed in their heads, and how eager they were. There is nothing like these bright faces... sheer joy in their smiles... they are so happy to be in this school.

We delivered all the kids clothes yesterday. The staff was so happy... everyone was tickled. We brought a lot of clothes! then I went around to each classroom and began handing out lollipops. You NEVER saw such excitement! The children sat patiently in their seats while I went around and said hi to each one and gave them 2 lollipops. It was too much fun. They love me!! I brought pay day candy bars for all the staff and Hanan passed them out. They were just like the kids... a treat from the U.S.!

We went for a walk through the village and Renee took us to a "bakery." we walked in and Nicole and I just started laughing. I said the Pennsylvania health dept would have a field day in here... citations left and right. They would have been shut down years ago. Trays and trays of dough sitting on the ground waiting for the bread to rise... people walking all around them... in the bin where the cooked bread was waiting to be bagged, a baby was sleeping. I was dying! The owner was so pleased to see us. He directed someone to give us a tour. Considering the environment, this was as well run an organization as you could imagine... efficient, well-defined job responsibilities... just like an assembly line. And they were turning out bread and "doughnuts" faster than you would believe. We bought a bunch of bags of the doughnuts to take back to the school for the staff. They were delicious! I kept a bag to have with my tea... my TEA... in the morning. I haven't had a cup of coffee since the airport in Amsterdam! only had slight headache the first two nights. but I’ve been loading up on the African tea in the a.m.

Got back to the school, spent some time with the kids, and then headed back to the hotel. Cleaned up, then went to Hanan’s house for dinner. He moved into a new house on Monday. He was so excited because the new home is twice the size of his old house. Couldn't wait to show us his new modern home, with indoor plumbing... 2 rooms, a living room and a bedroom with a bathroom. the bathroom actually had a ceramic sink, a "shower" and a "toilet..." a hole in the ground with a toilet seat on top of it, but the toilet drain actually ran away from the house. This is a middle class home.

Yesterday was Hanan’s birthday, so we gave him his presents. He was too excited with his Steelers shirt and birthday cake. Renee also gave gifts to eve and the kids. I presented the kids with books. They were so excited and pleased. Hanan’s niece (whose name I can't remember right now, is 9 years old) put on the new dress that Renee gave her, sat down on the floor and began reading Shades Of Black. She was fascinated. She went to Renee and asked her a couple of the words she did not understand. She did not put the book down the entire time we were there. She was fascinated with the photos of the children. Probably the first time she ever explored the notion of "shades of black."

We had a long conversation about the school, what Hanan wanted to see happen. I explained strategic management to him and constructing a strategic plan, so I will help him with that. We looked at long and short term goals, so today we are going to Kampala city to meet with someone in the construction business to talk about putting new classroom buildings on the grounds and to see if there are logistic problems with trying to get pre-fab buildings.

All in all, it was a great day. Got back to the hotel and something spooked Nicole as we were walking up the stairs. She said, something moved under that chair. I said something is always moving around here. She said, no, there is something alive moving under that chair. So I shined my flashlight under the chair and this little head with shiny eyes poked out at us. Nicole screeched and jumped back. It was a live chicken in a plastic bag. Someone had gone into the bar to have a drink, and apparently left tomorrow's dinner outside in the bag, tied to the leg of the chair. I said, usually when I see chicken in a bag, it's a fryer and the head and feathers have already been removed, but oh well... we were laughing this morning about the chicken in the bag.

day 7 (I think) in Uganda


I consider myself a pretty good driver, but I would never drive in Uganda. I have driven in Tokyo, Japan, Los Angeles, Tijuana, and New York City... pieces of cake. But in Uganda, the traffic light is more like a suggestion... I think it must mean, slow down if you want to, or not, depends on how you feel. and these boda bodas have absolutely no restrictions. They drive against the traffic... come right at your car and then swerve at the last second, and you never know which way they are going to turn. Apparently, turn signals are illegal because no one uses them. All that, and we're driving on the wrong side of the road. It is an experience not for the faint of heart.


We went into Kampala city yesterday. The goal was to visit the cultural center to try to identify some artist who might be willing to come to the school and teach some art/craft to the students. Right now, Renee is buying lots of crafts which we then sell on the web site in order to get financial support for the school. My thought was that if the children made the crafts, or at least some of them, we could advertise authentic African artwork by the children with all proceeds directly supporting their education. Also, at Hanan’s house Monday evening, we talked about a 5-year plan and what was most needed at the school. We decided that if we could replace the classroom buildings with real classrooms, we could attract more affluent families who could actually pay the tuition. So we made an appointment with someone who Hanan knew who is in the construction business.


The cultural center was the first stop. I have never seen such amazing artwork... beautiful handmade clothing... sculptures, jewelry, paintings, authentic tribal masks. it got to be overload for the senses. Just way too much stuff to take in all at once. We identified a couple of artists, but were unable to speak with them... they were in some meeting, so we have to go back, probably on Friday.


Kampala city is a much more modern place than anything we have seen so far, but it also is a sad place. We saw a huge... HUGE, mosque. I have never seen anything quite like it and numerous office buildings and stores, department-like stores, that were obviously built by the British, I don't know how many years ago. but when Idi Amin started killing the British and Indian merchants and they all fled, there was no one with the expertise to start or re-start businesses that were in the business of maintaining the infrastructure. So many of these old buildings, like the hotel we are staying in, were obviously grand buildings one hundred years ago. But now, they are just falling apart.


Kampala is also a paradox of this beautiful country. I suppose after the reign of "big daddy," many of the Indian merchants returned and reclaimed or rebuilt their businesses. They absolutely dominate the major commercial concerns "down town." There are still remnants of the old colonial tensions between the Indians and the Ugandans. Probably not nearly as bad as 50 years ago, but remnants. The merchants are at best unconcerned when black people walk into their stores, but they immediately come to assist Nicole and Renee when they enter. I get some respect, I suppose, because they assume I am a foreigner. (among the rural people, children and adults alike, I am called a "mzungu," a white person. I told Renee and Nicole that it is guilt by association.) All the police officers are natives, and it is not unusual to see them walking the streets in groups, or riding in the back of pick-ups, with shotguns and automatic weapons. Our hotel has an armed guard at the front and back entrances starting around 4pm through the morning. But Kampala is a very unusual city... a strange dichotomy of poor and affluent, old and new, indigenous and foreign. I saw some very high end, very western men's clothing stores in a distinctly western part of down town. Very unusual.

We also met with the construction guy. Had a long conversation, but will probably not amount to much. He was not too concerned about helping the school, but was more focused on trying to "sell" us his services. I told him we would be glad to build a new $100,000 school building if he was willing to donate $90,000 of it. We turned the tables and asked him how much he was willing to donate. Renee said, how unusual, the "rich" Americans come to the local guy and ask for a donation. We'll see where that goes.


Got to run... time to get to the school.


Last night, around midnight, I heard a cow mooing... looked out my window and there's a cow just walking up and down the middle of the street... cars, buses, boda bodas swerving around it... people walking, paying it no attention whatever... I watched this for about 15 minutes... no one cared... hilarious.

day 8 (I think) in Uganda


I’m so confused about the time now, I’m just going to call this day 8 and try to keep the days straight from now on.


We had a very productive day yesterday. Went to the school first thing in the a.m. Kids were busy in class... we could hear them reciting their lessons as we drove up... others were scurrying about taking care of other things. The vibrancy of the school is infectious. it is so cute to see the kids peering out of the doors and windows when we come up. Most of them are still very shy and won't initiate any contact, but as soon as I wave or say hello, dozens of faces break out in the biggest grins and little hands are frantically waving. They are really excited to see us come. And of course the staff loves to see us arrive. They get a chance to show off and I’m sure they think we are bringing them buckets of money.


We informally greeted some of the parents who were arriving to register their children. Registration lasts all week because some of the poorer parents can't get here on a given day. I think the parents believe that since Americans are involved, it must be a good school, so the staff is happy to point us out. We went into some of the classrooms and interacted with the students, and then we had a key staff meeting to discuss some of the suggestions from our previous meetings. We agreed to rebuild the 5 classrooms. Or perhaps I should say, I agreed to make sure that all you reading this email would pay to rebuild the classrooms. These buildings are literally falling down. I think they lean 2 degrees more each day. So we figured out a preliminary budget... about $15,000 to build basic units using a lot of staff labor, and firing our own bricks. we also agreed to pay for a full time nurse and to put in a nurses office next year...


We wanted to see how the dorms looked now that many of the children have arrived, so went to the girls dorm and there was a young girl in bed. Nicole said, what's wrong honey, don't you feel well. she said, I have malaria. I guess we have always known of the resiliency of children, but the absolute determination and sheer resolve of these kids is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. There are so many incidents that occur everyday that make you realize how fortunate we are... how absolutely blessed, simply because we were born on a certain part of the planet. And these children are absolutely delighted with their lives. What we consider as amazing intestinal fortitude is simply everyday life for the young people. The students at this school are so much better off than other children in this country. As we were coming to school yesterday morning, and looking at some other children walking to their schools, we saw other children, 10 - 13 years old, working in their parents' corner market, or walking the street selling bananas, oranges, or almost anything else. These are kids who either already finished school (6th grade) or who will never go to school. It is sad.


It was laundry day at school... that's once per week... and bath day. So while Nicole, Renee and I sat in on the teacher's strategy meeting, I looked out the door and on the hillside, there are these children, probably 10 - 12 years old, bathing the younger children. It was precious and hilarious. Dark little naked butts running around in the grass, boys and girls, while some others got their baths... no inhibitions, no fears, just sheer joy and laughter... not an adult in sight. These children know that when they reach a certain age, they have responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is taking care of the younger children. No one complaining, no one causing anyone any problems, just everyone doing what he needs to do. It was so cute watching the little ones brush their teeth with the toothbrushes and toothpaste we brought here. They were having a ball.


I spent some additional time with Hanan talking about leadership and management. With Renee’s help, he has done remarkable things with this school. This is a man who started a school with one table and one chair under a tree. He has great vision and warmth and is a pleasure to be around. Renee has been a tremendous help to him and it is very rewarding to be able to contribute a little to this project.


At lunchtime, I went to where the food was being served, and I passed out some Laffy Taffy. Adults came running just like the children. It is amazing how excited and appreciative they are for these little treats. After each child got his food, I gave him two pieces of candy. They love me!! I’m like Santa Claus and Richard K. Mellon all in one. The kids' lunch is mush, beans, and broth, every day. They pour some corn meal into a huge pot of boiling water and stir until it thickens. They separate the beans from the broth, serve a huge portion of mush first, then pour some broth over it, and then drop in a few beans. And I do mean a few. about as much as you would get on two tablespoons. I will not even begin to describe the kitchen. You have to see the photos.


I had a good time with the kids. They are amazing. All in all, it was a good day. About 5pm we headed back to the hotel. On the way back, a whole herd of cows was casually strolling through the road. Our driver would drive right up to the cows and blow his horn. They were completely unconcerned. He's screaming out the window for the cows to move and they are completely ignoring him. People are walking all around, dozens and dozens of people. I started thinking of the cow in the street last night and thinking who owns these cows? Why are they just meandering around in the middle of the day. The driver actually had to bump a couple of them. Once they got bumped they started moving and their demeanor is just like the people and the taxis and the boda bodas. They were in the road first and they had a right to be there. You have to laugh. And the driver didn't help, screaming and flailing his arms out the window of the little Toyota. I’m thinking, one of these cows could turn over this little Tercel with all of us in it. They're all bigger than this little car. Some of the bulls have horns that must span 6 feet.


Our plan is to go back to the school tomorrow. I’m going to try to show the teachers and students how to get on the internet with their little x-o computers. Friday we plan to buy school books and go back to the cultural center to try to make the contact with the artist. Saturday is a trip to the Nile River, if the rain doesn't stop us. The rain dictates a lot of what goes on around here. It doesn't rain much this time of the year, but it rains everyday. Short cloudbursts... sometimes terrible downpours that last 10-15 minutes. Then the clouds blow away, the sun comes back and 30 minutes later, the street is dry. That is, the paved street. I think there are four of them. The main road from Kampala is paved. That is the road our hotel is on. The street parallel to this one is paved. And the two cross streets that lead north and south are paved. That's it. The other roads are dirt roads. And because of the erosion from the rain, absolutely no drainage system, and no rain blocks on any of the hills, when these rains come they dig terrible trenches in the dirt roads. There are some roads that are completely impassable when a big storm hits. The road to the school has so many gullies in it, that the driver has to actually straddle some of the gullies and crevices to get up/down the road. If two wheels fell into one of these deep ditches, the car would literally be on its side. It would have to be pulled out, but these drivers negotiate these roads like pros. and that's the key. You don't just drive in Uganda. You negotiate the roads with the pedestrians, the boda bodas and the wildlife. Pedestrians, walk at your own risk.


I love this place.


I may not be able to write tomorrow morning because we are leaving for Kampala city before the internet cafe opens. The sign on the door says it opens at 9am. They might get here at 9:20, 9:45... no rush. There is absolutely no concept of time or hours in this culture. I have not yet seen anyone (locals) with a wrist watch... no clocks in any store, the hotel, nowhere.

day 9 in Uganda

I won't have time to write tomorrow morning, but we returned to the hotel early, so here is today's events:

It must have rained during the night... everything is wet. As soon as I wake, I go out on my balcony and observe the street scene. The streets are eerily quiet after the night rain. I guess people take cover and there is decidedly less vehicle traffic. Around 7am everyone begins to stir. Since school has started now (this is the beginning of the school year... school goes from Feb. through Nov with a short break in May) we see lots of children in their smart uniforms walking to school in small groups. I suppose all schools require uniforms. People are beginning to move about quickly and the boda bodas are lining up. No cows.

We went to school this morning with the plan to get teachers indoctrinated on the use of computers and make them aware of the availability and utility of the internet, for themselves as well as the children. We discovered that the school does not turn the electricity on during the day because the fee is higher than in the evening. The habit has been to turn the electricity on so the computers can charge. Renee donated her personal laptop last year to act as a server, and Hanan brought his laptop in (which Renee previously gave him) so that everyone could get lessons. We discovered that Renee’s laptop, the server, does not hold a charge for more than about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, it also takes about 10 minutes to boot up. It's about 5 years old and probably shot. Hanan’s battery pack is absolutely shot. We cannot even turn it on unless it is hooked up to the current. In other words, the morning plan was aborted.

I passed out candy canes at lunch (they still love me!) and after lunch Nicole gave English (with a French Canadian accent) lessons to a class. The kids loved it, and she did an excellent job showing the teacher how to be creative with little things. I went to several classrooms and talked about life in the U.S. The concept of snow fascinated some of them who were completely unfamiliar with it, and we had a ball. There are four or five of these kids I could bring home right now. Wait until you meet Sylvia. We have her on videotape. I had a great time with the kids without the computers, and then I spent the afternoon talking with teachers and staff. I saw the cook walking around later, and I asked Hanan when he left school. Hanan said, he doesn't. He takes a nap in the late afternoon/early evening, then gets up and is the night watchman. These people are crazy dedicated. Like I said the other day, wait until you see his kitchen.


So we had another great day at school. Nicole and Renee walked back to the hotel... had their own little adventure walking through the village. I waited for the car because I had to carry some bags back to the hotel. On the way back, we stopped at the "bank..." an ATM machine inside something like a big phone booth, with a security guard carrying a submachine gun sitting out front. I felt so secure.

We had a treat for dinner tonight... French fries!!! or, at least a reasonable facsimile of French fries, called "chips." They were a welcome relief from the matouke, rice, greens... when I get home, I am going to devour a pizza. I’m just going to put my whole face in it and chew it up.

day 10 in Uganda

So we went shopping today. First to the "stationery" district. New York has its garment district. Pittsburgh has its strip district. Kampala city has its stationery district. You never saw so many stores selling paper, paper products, paper by-products... one after the other for about three city blocks, on both sides of the street. I said how do you know which store to go into? Our driver (we have a new driver, Evelyn, pronounced EE va leen) asked what we wanted to buy. We told her and she said come with me. We needed exercise books (notebooks) paper, chalk, teachers manuals, some other school supplies. She said come with me... takes us to this place, we pick out everything we need, it comes to 458,000 shillings. Evelyn says, very emphatically, no, tells me to be quiet, then proceeds to argue with the store clerk in Luganda (their native tongue)... the store manager comes over, they get a calculator, refigure everything, then begin to politely argue again. Then Evelyn demands that they get another calculator, gives it to me and tells me to re-check their figures. I do what I’m told, they argue some more... we pay 338,000 shillings. I love this place. Practically everything is negotiable.

I had to buy another camera... the one I brought has a battery pack, not batteries, and the charger I bought here, won't work... so Evelyn says she knows where I can get the best deal... drives around to our first strip mall... yes, a strip mall. a shop-rite grocery store, an ophthalmologist, a dentist, a pharmacy, and Uganda’s own version of Wal-Mart. Evelyn says the price is best here, but non-negotiable. There is no way you would have known you were not in a Wal-Mart or Kmart... white people walking around shopping... hilarious.

Then we drive to Uganda’s version of Barnes and Noble... much smaller and no coffee bar, and the obligatory armed guard posted outside. We bought school books, teachers' manuals... I picked up a cute little Ugandan story book for Aaron and David.

Then we drive to the arts and crafts center. We turn down the wrong street so Evelyn pulls into an industrial place near the railroad tracks to turn around. Renee says, is that a vulture? Yes, as a matter of fact it is... so we jump out to try to take a photo. We look across the railroad tracks and there are about 200 vultures, just chillin. I got close to the first one we saw to try to get a close-up picture... snapped the photo and he turned his head to look at me. I’m pretty sure I saw him lick his lips, so we get back to the car. They have vultures, hawks, and storks like we have pigeons. And they aren't afraid of people. A lot of vultures hang out behind our hotel. I’m not sure what that means. So we get to the arts and crafts center to make contact again with artists for the school. That didn't go so well. They are going to have to continue that effort after we leave, but I think it's possible. We did some shopping. I could have spent a lot of money here, so I’m kind of glad I didn't have it to spend, but I got a few things. There was an ebony carving, a tribal man's head, that I wanted... 80,000 shillings. I got it for 40,000. I love this place.

It was a long day of shopping, running around, maniac traffic, which I think I figured out. You just get the nose of your car in the intersection, never look around, never acknowledge the other drivers, and it's up to them to avoid hitting you. Remarkable system. We shot some video footage of this because you wouldn't believe it otherwise. We headed back to the school to drop off the supplies. It's rush hour now, so Evelyn "cut the jam..." took a short-cut. Every time these kids see us now, they just get crazy excited. Nicole played ring-around-the-Rosie, in French, with some kids. they are loving her. Then we headed back to the hotel.
I am writing this tonight because we are leaving for Jinja and the Nile River around 8:30 and the internet café doesn’t open until 9:30… or so.
I’ll be home next week!!! yaaaaa!!!

day 11 in Uganda


greetings all,


A trip to the Nile River actually. So, denial is not just a river in Egypt. it is also a river that actually begins in Uganda. And that's where we went yesterday, to the mouth of the Nile river.


And, second, last week it was chicken in a bag. yesterday, it was chicken on a stick.


So we boarded the matatu (a Toyota minivan that seats 14... and which would be illegal to drive in any state in the union... this is a typical taxi cab) with the three of us; David, who helps Hanan run the school; Hanan; his wife, eve; his sister, carol; his niece, lateefa; and Hanan’s three children, haneff, Renee Waun (what a coincidence) and the baby whose name I can't remember right now.


The trip to the Nile took about 90 minutes. Again, the sites along the way were tremendous. There are no general taxes in Uganda. No sales tax, no property tax... don't ask how they run the government. I haven't gotten a straight answer to that question yet. One means of revenue is the sale of land... very expensive. So if people can save enough money to buy a piece of property, they then build a home out of whatever is on the land. I will show you a photograph of a home built out of sticks and mud... literally. So the great ethical dilemma here as we are traveling is what photos to take that are of the general countryside and depicts the culture of the people, and what would constitute an invasion of privacy or would just be rude. I can certainly tell you, though, that I have never seen the type of poverty anywhere else I have been as I have seen here. And one man told me that I haven't seen the worst of it.


What is very noticeable is that everyplace we have been is either farm land or extremely highly populated villages and cities. There just isn't land to be had for new generations to purchase. The farm land... the plantations, have been owned mostly by the same families or conglomerates since forever... mostly sugar cane, tea, and banana trees, so those properties are not going to change hands. Riding through parts of the country is very similar to riding through middle Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio where there are acres and acres of soy beans and corn, except here it is tea and sugar cane. And of course the sugar cane looks very much like corn, so there was this eerie familiarity that was completely out of context. There are some corn plantations as well, but not as many in this part of Uganda. These are their staple products, but there is also a lot of pineapple (although I don't know where it grows), cabbage and jack fruit. Jack fruit is the biggest, ugliest thing you've ever seen, kind of like a fat porcupine with short little nubby quills, about the size of a really big watermelon, but a little less green, almost like a lime. There are about twenty gazillion seeds in it which they cut away and you eat the empty seed pods inside. tastes something like a dry cantaloupe/banana, not too sweet, and pretty tasty. It's a lot of work for a little bit of fruit, but they grow wild, so...


On the trip to the Nile, we stopped at a rest stop. for all of you who have driven the Pennsylvania turn-pike, a "service plaza," but without the bathrooms, buildings, service station or requisite cement. As soon as we pulled off on the side of the road, about twenty vendors rushed... and I do mean rushed the matatu, grabbed the sliding windows, forced them open, and began to shove all manner of food through the windows. All of them are yelling for us to buy their products, each trying to out-maneuver the other. They did everything except rip open the doors and get inside. Mind you, this vehicle is still moving, probably at 10 - 15 miles per hour. So these men and women are literally running beside this minivan trying to make a sale. I don't know how 4 or 5 of them didn't loose some toes. So we're staring at, and trying to avoid getting force fed, some oranges, bananas, roasted bananas, pineapple, Fanta orange soda (apparently, a local favorite... Pepsi products are huge here) and my personal favorite... chicken on a stick. I mean, a whole or half chicken, rotisseried or roasted to seeming perfection, with a stick through his butt and coming out his neck. But they're not cooked like we cook them. These chickens are "stretched." The wings are pulled open and straight down so that the tip of the wing is down past the thigh and the legs are pulled down even further. The chickens are headless, but they appear to be in terrible pain. There are two big concerns for me here. One, these things smelled delicious. The aroma was absolutely intoxicating, the closest thing I have smelled to home cooking since I’ve been here. Two, refrigeration is not a big concern here. In our travels, we have seen dressed chickens, goats, and cows just casually hanging in the shops of these street vendors. They usually just hang them in the windows, I suppose for the presentation effect, and the temperature is not exactly suited for preservation of gutted and dressed meats. I suppose the fire would kill any bacteria, but I’m also pretty sure my personal constitution would react adversely to the meat. So, I politely declined the chicken, lamb, and beef on the sticks, but I was tempted. I can't tell you how good they smelled. As a sales person, though, I give much credit to the tenacity of these vendors. If there is a sale to be made, they'll make it. And this "take-out" routine continues with every matatu, tour bus or boda boda that pulls into the service plaza. There are probably 50 or more of these vendors, all identified by their blue aprons, waiting to serve every vehicle that pulls in. We bought roasted bananas... they taste just like you would imagine a roasted banana would taste. I’d rather have a fresh one.


We arrived at the Nile... the source of the Nile river, and spiritually, it is everything you would imagine. The absolute thought that this majestic river has stood the test of time and we were here in the presence of living history has an amazing and humbling impact. The matatu parked on a hill overlooking the river and I just stood for a few moments, considering the history and who might have stood on this very spot 4 or 5,000 years before. There are rocks and a small waterfall, so as soon as the river comes out of the ground, it turns a corner and heads down this fall, so there is this wonderful sounding of the fast rushing water. It is a class 4 white water rapid, and since I have some experience with class 4 rapids, I decided to give it a try. but the whole drowning in Uganda thing was a deterrent, so I was content to take off my shoes and socks and stand in three inches of water along the shore. I fully intend to add this to my resume: I’ve had lunch with Henry Kissinger, Jonas Salk, and I have stood in the Nile river. How many other people can say that?


After the river turns the corner and comes down the falls, it gets about 200 - 300 feet wide right away. We took a tour boat out to the other side to see the beginning of the falls... pretty amazing. We ate lunch there, at this little Indian-owned hut that was suspect at best. But it was late in the afternoon by then and the plan was to eat there. We ate in this very cute open air, thatch hut kind of restaurant/bar. I got this menu that had seen better days, ordered fish and chips. yes... fish. I figured, why not? as the Budweiser people used to say, you only go around once in life... so we ordered chips and guacamole. I don't eat green mushy foods, but when they brought this, it was red and yellow and looked great, so I had to try it. Mexicans don't make guacamole like this. Mexicans could learn how to make guacamole from these folks. Delicious. I didn't have high hopes for this fish though (14,000 shillings... about $6) so I figured I couldn't be disappointed. what I got was the most attractively presented fish... a whole tilapia, cooked on an open grill with chips (French fries) and a small salad of tasty, sweet, bright red tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. I’m thinking, if I was at the fish market in Pittsburgh, this would cost $50. and it was delicious. I was at the Nile river and in heaven. I can't describe this fish to you... crispy outside, delicate, sweet, moist and tender inside. if I didn't have the whole marine macho thing going on, I probably would have cried. The best fish I have ever eaten. we fed 12 people for about $100. I love this place.


We had a great time. I felt a little guilty... like I was on vacation. I stood in the Nile river. We got some great photographs. I took a picture of my fish before I ate it.

We're going to trinity campus today. That's the piece of land Hanan bought so we can build a secondary/vocational school.

day 12 in Uganda

We slept in a little yesterday morning. The plan for Sunday was to go check out the land for the new Trinity Campus. It rained a little Saturday night and was raining Sunday morning, so we didn't know how accessible the roads would be. We couldn't reach Hanan by phone and didn't know what time to expect the driver, so we decided to not waste the time and thought we could get some exercise by walking to the school. It's only about 2 miles away. Of course, one of those miles is entirely uphill, but we needed the exercise after sitting most of the day Saturday.

These kinds of walks through these little villages are always funny, because everyone absolutely stares at Renee and Nicole. The looks are of wonderment, inquisitiveness, amazement... and then they look at me as if I wondering why I am with them. You can hear whispers and sometimes downright shouts of "mzungu..." white person. What is hilarious is how many times that is directed at me. but mzungu is not a curse word. I think it is more descriptive because it is unusual in this part of Uganda. What is so delightful, though, is as soon as Renee or Nicole acknowledge people, they break out in the biggest grins and are so happy to engage and be engaged. People here really are fabulous. There is no fear, no pretense, no manipulations, no hidden agendas. Everyone is just working hard from sun up to sun down. And I do mean working hard. There is no such thing as a day off or a vacation. The woman who manages our hotel is on duty every morning when we come down for breakfast, about 8:30. Sometimes she actually serves breakfast and then clears the table afterward. When we come in at 9 or 10 at night, she is still on duty. This has been every day, and the other workers keep similar schedules. The woman who cleans our rooms is waiting on tables in the evenings. It's no wonder they conduct so much street business and party so hard after the sun goes down. What else is there to do? These street vendors open shop around 9 or 10am and are still there at 1 or 2am. And I love talking with them. They are eager to talk with you and equally eager to make a deal. Fun times.

On the walk to the school I took a photo of a boda boda, some people, and some cows all crossing the road together. People are staring at me, I’m sure wondering why I am taking photos of cows. After all, there is nothing unusual about people on motorcycles and cows crossing the road. When we arrive at the school, as soon as the kids see us, cheers go up all over the campus. Little smiling, dirty faces with bald heads come running toward us. You'd have thought we had chicken on a stick. The thing that struck me most about this scene is that this is Sunday morning and there are about 200 kids playing soccer, skipping rope (they don't jump rope, they skip rope) laughing, playing... having loads of fun. and I’m thinking, I haven't been on any school property anywhere in the United States at any time, and have seen these many kids having this much fun. Not even at recess. And this soccer ball can just barely fit the description of a ball. It's more of just a ba... not a whole ball. And the skipping rope they use is a bunch of grass twigs tied together. If anyone knows what centipede grass is, that's the kind of grass that grows wild on this hillside, and that's how they make their skipping ropes. Their shoes barely fit the definition of shoes, this red dirt is flying around everywhere, and these kids are having the time of their lives. They're killin' me.


We decided to use the day to take photos of the children who need sponsors. The children don't know that we are planning to sponsor them, and we didn't want to cause jealousy among the others, so we told them that we were taking class photos and then we would choose some individual students to photograph. we had a ball lining kids up and of course they are always eager to have their pictures taken. Instead of saying "cheese," to get them to smile, we tell to say "Obama!" they love it. Smiles all around.

When everyone at home sees these pictures, they are going to want to eat these kids up. "cute" doesn't come close to describing them. I wish I could email these pictures now, but when we do send these to everyone, get your Kleenex ready.

We then took a walk through a nearby village. When we took our walk last week to announce the mosquito nets, Nicole met this little girl who wanted to come to the school. She was practically in tears because her mother can't afford to send her, and she saw all these kids having so much fun. Nicole has been crying about it ever since, so last week we asked Hanan to find this little girl for Nicole so she can sponsor her and her brother to come to the school. So we walked to their house. No one was home, so we will return tomorrow or Tuesday to try to get them into the school. Nicole is so happy. these kids will do that to you... make you smile, make you cry. and for those who asked, no, I have not seen again the little boy that grabbed my hand and walked with me during our little parade. But I’m keeping a look out for him.

We decided to head back to the hotel since we were practically at the bottom of the hill, but Nicole and Renee left their bags at school. I offered to walk back up the hill and get them, told them to just continue on toward the hotel and I would catch up with them. Someone had just arrived at the school to drop off her child, so... I had my first boda boda ride. I thought there is no sense in my walking all the way down this hill when there was transportation available, so I jumped onto the back of this motorcycle (that had seen better days... years ago) and off we went. it was sort of like sitting behind Evel Knievel going downhill through the grand canyon. Oh my, what a ride. I’m glad I did it... pretty sure I won't do it again.

It was another great day in the motherland. we will attempt the trip to Trinity Campus tomorrow. Tuesday, we will take care of unfinished business. Nicole and I will say our goodbyes Wednesday morning... not looking forward to that... and Wednesday evening, we'll be on our way back to the other motherland.

beera bulungi (have a nice day, in Luganda)

day 13 in Uganda

We went to the Trinity Campus yesterday. I told Hanan that we have a saying in America when there is a bad situation, we say it's "like 5 miles of bad road." well, the trip to the property was actually about 6 miles of horrendous road. This blasted red dirt is everywhere. So we've traveled about 5 miles up this road which, fortunately, was navigable because there has not been a heavy rain lately. We get about a half-mile away from the property and we get flagged down by a worker who tells us the road is out due to construction and we cannot drive through. These 3 guys are digging a ditch to install some drainage pipe under the road, so about half the width of the road is dug out, about 4 feet deep. I get Renee’s video camera to get some shots of this scene. I say, but the road is still passable... there is still enough room for the matatu to get by. They say that the ground is too soft and it might get stuck. ridiculous. so, after some locally-flavored negotiations by Hanan, we pay the guys 2,000 shillings to let us go through... with the understanding that they will keep the way clear so we can return. like I said before, practically everything in this country is negotiable.

We tour the property and it is quite nice. It's at the top of the hill, mostly flat, very grassy, about 5 acres of the first case of fertile, black soil that I have seen in this country, with pau pau trees, palm trees, a few banana trees, and jack fruit growing wild. The air up there was amazing... naturally sweet from the little yellow and blue wildflowers and yellow blossoms that looked like day lilies on some of the trees. the air was crisp and clear with a pretty constant gentle breeze blowing through numerous trees and tall grasses. The trees provide plenty of shade and yet there is abundant open space. A little piece of heaven. When we are in places like this, it is easy to forget we are in Uganda. This is more like the Poconos. but the chickens, hogs, cows, little brick house and little sticks-and-mud dwelling are quick reminders of this country.

Hanan has allowed a family to live in the house, rent-free, in order to keep squatters or someone from trying to claim the land. The houses were on the land when Hanan purchased it. We approached the house and were warmly greeted by the matriarch. She was probably about 65 years old, typically dressed for the hard work she was doing. And then I felt like I was in Georgia or South Carolina. You know that this woman has next to nothing, but she stopped her work, grabbed some jack fruit (probably the best she had) cut it open, cleaned it and gave some to everyone. It was not just warm and polite, but very typical of this people. We walked around the property and took some photos. I have a picture of a 7 feet tall ant hill. The family who lives on the property has planted some sweet potatoes and is raising the animals i mentioned. We needed to see the property to determine the feasibility of building a vocational school for our secondary students. Right now, when children finish 7th grade at our school, we don't have any options for them. So this land was purchased, about 2 years ago, in order to provide some options. It's beautiful property, but I am concerned about the distance from Kampala as well as the accessibility during the rainy season. Horrendous roads.


We bought some sweet potatoes from a local grower and headed back down the hill. When we got to the place where the digging was taking place... guess what? The workers had rolled the big cement drainage pipes onto the center of the road so we couldn't pass. I assume by now that you all have a feel for the culture of this wonderful place, so you know what happened next. You're right, we paid our bribe... 2,000 shillings and they politely rolled the pipes out of the way and we continued on our journey. Money talks and that other stuff walks.

We made some stops on the way back to the school... soccer balls, hand balls, skipping ropes, books. When we arrived on campus, about 5pm, classes were already finished for the day and the kids were playing, running around... when we stepped out of the matatu and they saw these brand new balls... you guessed it... just like chicken on a stick. It is amazing how quickly 200 kids can organize themselves into games without adult supervision. We got some excellent video footage.

Part of the plan when we decided to come on this trip, was to bring things that the school and the kids need. So, other than the candy, we packed lots of clothes for the kids, and we planned to leave for the teachers all the clothes we have been wearing since we've been here. But Nicole also brought lots of additional skirts and dresses to distribute to the teachers, most of them donated by my darling wife. So she brought her suitcase from the hotel and presented them to the teachers. I didn't know what was going on because I was outside with the kids, but one of the teachers walked past me, grabbed my hand, and with huge teary eyes began to thank me profusely. I had no clue what was going on, so I said you're welcome, and she hurried away. Nicole and Renee had told them that my wife donated some of the clothing and they wanted to thank me.

We hung around the school for a while then walked down the hill back to the hotel. I don't even think we noticed the cows this time. I mean, after all, they're just cows... part of the landscape.

This may be my last opportunity to deliver these daily messages. It's 5pm here right now. There was no electricity when we woke, so I was not able to write this morning, and today we were busy trying to clean up last minute stuff... shopping for chalkboard erasers, a new battery pack for Hanan’s laptop, hair clippers for the school... and tomorrow promises to be a busy day as we say goodbye and try to get to the airport. so... while today was a fairly uneventful day (or else, I’ve been fully indoctrinated) I’ll try to write in the morning if I can.

It's been quite a trip. I’m glad I came and I’ll be excited to share photos with all of you and fill in any details. this land and its people are remarkable.

Love you all, and I’ll see you soon.

(Day 14—Final Day in Uganda)
What a trip. What a day.

I don't think I am ever going to be able to adequately express or describe what has happened here. I have already used remarkable, amazing, fantastic, wonderful. maybe... remarkamazfantasderful!! The country, the people, the bluest skies.. baby blue, with the fluffiest, most abundant, whitest clouds I have ever seen... clouds that don't block out the sun, but only enhance the brilliance of a colorful landscape... and that darned red dirt.

The plan for today was just to tie up loose ends, say goodbye to the kids, get back to the hotel, clean up and head to the airport. Of course, knowing this was our last day, the teachers and kids planned the obligatory closing ceremony. Nothing overly dramatic like the opening ceremony. I told Hanan to keep it simple. That the fanfare was not necessary. All I can say is, wait until you see the videotape. We'll make DVD’s for anyone who wants to see the footage we shot since we've been here. Or, maybe, for a small contribution to the school, we'll SELL you a DVD. These great ideas just keep coming. I can't stop it.

We decided to give cash bonuses to the staff. So we got envelopes and wrote everyone's name on them. Depending on whether a full time teacher, part-time, or some of the additional staff, we awarded between 10,000 shillings (for the part-time carpenter, for instance) and 30,000 shillings to full-time teachers. We awarded David, the guy who runs the school, 50,000 shillings... about $35.

the day was appropriately emotional, for students, staff and us. It is 2:05pm right now, we left the school about a half-hour ago, and I think Nicole is still crying. I will miss every part of this journey... but I am glad to be heading back to all of you.


Volunteers' Blog: Kay and Steve Martin (2008)

Kay and Steve Martin | Asheville, North CarolinaWe have friends who said they wished they could have an opportunity to travel to Uganda and volunteer at the school. On the other hand we had friends who couldn’t believe we would put ourselves in such a situation.

We were confident of our decision and we weren’t disappointed. With the exception of a young lady who was volunteering at a school for orphans, we didn’t see any other white people during our 16 day stay.

First and foremost the Ugandans are a very friendly and open people. They always have a smile on their faces and are very neat and clean. Considering the conditions of very few paved roads, we traveled on mostly dirt roads with deep ruts. When it was dry they were dusty. When it rained they were muddy and slippery. These people deal with this every day.

Is Uganda for everyone? Not really. You must be prepared to accept frequent power outages, dust, mud and smog. On the other hand you feel like a rock star. You are welcomed by everyone.

At the school the children were warm and friendly. They wanted to touch our skin and hair. They were curious about the skin on our elbows and the veins on the back of our hands.

When we took digital pictures they immediately wanted to see themselves. They would smile and point. To them that was a real treat. No wonder we took over 600 pictures.

We followed the basic rules of travel. Drink bottled water, no ice (that didn’t matter as there was very little refrigeration), no fruits or raw veggies that didn’t have skin on them. No milk unless it was boiled. We didn’t experience any problems with the food.

There was never a question of safety. We walked through the neighborhoods, waved to the children and adults and always got an acknowledgement. The people are proud and they maintain a very clean appearance and their homes are spotless. Many people live in one room or two. The cooking facilities are outside the house since they cook with wood or charcoal. Also, they do their laundry in wash pans and hang it inside-out to dry. Why? The red clay dust might show on the outside. It is amazing how clean they can get a mud stained white shirt. Don’t expect your laundry to be dried in one day. Two or three is more like it. At the hotel they washed the floor on their hands and knees. It was a white tile floor and you can imagine how red clay looked on it. Every morning it was spotless.

There is no garbage service. People place their garbage in a pile and then it gets burned. That is why there is such smog in the air. Between the wood cooking and the burning garbage there is a lot of smoke.

Kay and Steve Martin with Renee Waun We have been asked what we got out of our trip. First we have a great appreciation for what we have in the USA. Second we have great respect for the people of Uganda. Third we see what an education means to these people. The Ugandans sacrifice for their children’s education. We were surprised at the number of fathers who brought their children to register for classes.

How can you make a difference? First, make a financial commitment to support the African Rural Schools Foundation USA. It is amazing that they can educate one child for $10 per month. Their success is apparent. They are ranked high in the testing done at the end of the school year.

What do they need? Additional permanent buildings, books, supplies, purchase of the land where the school is located and sponsorships for needy children. We made a commitment to sponsor children as well as making the trip to Uganda. Based on our stories, several of our friends want to contribute to the school. This is one charity where every dollar donated goes directly to the school. Financial control of contributions is managed through a rigorous budget process.

On a shopping trip a soccer ball and a volley ball were purchased. These replaced plastic grocery bags stuffed with more plastic grocery bags that they used for balls. The girls used long strands of grass tied together as a jump rope. When the soccer ball and volley balls were presented to the students a loud cheer rang out. After the meeting they were all playing with the new equipment.

Thank goodness for technology. The most prevalent thing we saw was the cell phone. With their infrastructure very few homes have telephones. Electricity is a luxury when it is on. There is a water system but not everyone has running water. Many families carry their water from springs or buy it from a neighbor who has running water.

What a wonderful 15 day journey we had! Steve was pleased with the construction progress on the library which started with a foundation and 15 days later was ready for the trusses and roofing. In my mind, the best part was all the beautiful Ugandan people we had the pleasure of getting to know. They are truly the nicest, most welcoming, and hard working people we have ever met. The Ugandans opened their homes and hearts to us and we had the privilege of experiencing and sharing in their daily lives. Considering the widespread poverty, this is truly an amazing country. Hanan has done a fantastic job with few resources, and I know that the students are receiving a good education and a lot of love. We will miss our celebrity status, happy smiles and warm hugs which we received each day upon arriving at the school.

Kay and Steve Martin
Asheville, North Carolina